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Islamic World News ( 2 March 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Bombay HC Rejects Love Jihad: Grants Pre-Arrest Bail, Says Interfaith Relations Can Not Have Religious Angle by Default

New Age Islam News Bureau

02 March 2023


• Pakistan is Home to at Least 12 Terrorist Organizations, Nikki Haley Says

• All Elements of Doha Agreement Should be implemented: Senior Taliban Member Annas Haqani

• Abu Dhabi's Stunning New Multi-Faith Complex "Abrahamic Family House” Is A Mosque, Synagogue and Church

• UK's 'Prevent' Program Legitimizes Racist Attitudes towards Muslims: Expert



• Kashmiri Pandit Killing: Valley-based Pandit Organisation Seeks Removal of Governor and Action against Radical Elements

• Association of Muslim Professionals conference to be held in Lucknow



• Pakistan PM Appoints First Ambassador, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, for Kartarpur Corridor To Woo More Sikh Pilgrims

• Pakistan SC rules polls for Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies must be held by April

• Let's Hope Church Recognizes Pakistan’s Modern-Day Martyr

• Apex court ruling on polls termed ‘constitutional win’

• Cases filed against PTI leaders, activists for forcibly entering IHC, Judicial Complex


South Asia

• Taliban Announce Reopening of Universities, but Only for Male Students

• Afghanistan Resumes Passport Distribution after Five-Month Break

• Delawar: Islamic Emirate Wants Good Relations with Intl Community

• Islamic Emirate officials take over Afghan embassy in Iran

• Bangladesh struggles to meet Hajj quota as airfares, inflation soar

• Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan ‘Mohammad Sadiq’ Resigns

• 700,000 people lost their jobs since regime change in Afghanistan: UN envoy


Arab World

• Smuggled Iranian weapons seized in Gulf of Oman, British Royal Navy says

• Top Lebanese intel chief, mediator with Syria steps down

• UN chief visits Iraq for first time in 6 years

• WHO chief visits opposition-held Syria for first time after quake

• Saudi Arabia, UK sign defence agreement

• Egypt to use daylight saving time again in a bid to save energy



• British Navy says it has seized smuggled Iranian weapons in Gulf

• Solidarity shown with Türkiye during quake disaster can open new page in relations: EU

• Germany slams Iran decision to expel 2 diplomats in tit-for-tat move


North America

• US Slams Israeli Minister’s ‘Disgusting’ Comments about Palestinian Village

• SpaceX launches UAE, US, Russian astronauts on voyage to space station

• Why West Bank violence between Israelis and Palestinians rages on despite US mediation

• UAE space mission launch is scheduled for March 2 after February scratch

• US funded ‘Iran war plan’ in support of Israel’s anti-Iran saber-rattling: Report


Southeast Asia

• Ipsos Poll: Over One In Two Malaysians Say ‘Live And Let Live’ On Transgender Persons

• Malaysia vows to continue peace efforts in southern Philippines

• Guan Eng: There are more Muslim MPs in unity govt than PN

• TikTok Malaysia says political advertisements are banned amid claims of biased platform moderator

• Asean can’t stay silent over developments affecting region, says PM



• Houthis Pocket Millions of Dollars of Public Funds Say UN Experts

• Israel cracks down on rampaging settlers but Palestinians say it is ‘not enough’

• Palestinian man succumbs to wounds sustained in Israeli raid on West Bank camp

• Israeli regime's death penalty bill incurs Hamas outrage

• Palestinian children in Gaza explore world

• Top al-Qaeda figure killed in Yemen air strike: Sources

• IDF official: 'Can’t promise there won’t be terror escalation during Ramadan'

• Spokesman: Iran Expels 2 German Diplomats over Berlin's Interventionist Attitude

• Erdogan says Turkey elections to be held on May 14

• Israeli protesters block highway as government presses on with judicial overhaul



• Nigerian President-Elect Tinubu Appeals for Unity After Hotly Contested Elections

• Guinea to fly back citizens in Tunisia after outcry

• UN slams deployment of South Sudan troops in disputed region

• Achraf Hakimi’s lawyer denies rape allegations, says ‘accusations are false’

• Tunisia president receives Arab interior ministers

• Nigeria’s new President-elect Bola Tinubu

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Bombay HC Rejects Love Jihad: Grants Pre-Arrest Bail, Says Interfaith Relations Can Not Have Religious Angle by Default


01 MAR 2023

A relationship cannot be dubbed as a form of `love Jihad' just because the boy and the girl belong to different religions, the Bombay High Court has said while granting pre-arrest bail to a Muslim woman and her family.

A division bench of Justices Vibha Kankanwadi and Abhay Waghwase in an order of February 26 granted anticipatory bail to the accused who were denied relief by the local court.

The woman's former lover had alleged that she and her family forced him to convert to Islam and undergo circumcision.

His lawyer, while opposing the pre-arrest bail applications of the woman and her family members, also argued that it was a case of `love jihad'.

Love jihad is a term used by Hindu right-wing organizations to claim, without evidence, that there is a widespread conspiracy to lure Hindu women and convert them to Islam through marriage.

Here, though, the accuser was a man.

The High Court rejected the love jihad argument, pointing out that the man, in the First Information Report, had admitted that he was in a relationship with the woman and did not end the relationship despite having several opportunities.

"Merely because the boy and girl are from different religions, it cannot have a religions angle. It can be a case of pure love for each other," the court said.

"It appears that now the colour has been tried to be given of Love-Jihad, but when love is accepted then there is less possibility of the person being trapped just for converting him into the other's religion," it added.

As per the prosecution case, the man and woman were in a relationship since March 2018. The man belonged to a Scheduled Caste community, but did not disclose this to the woman.

Later, the woman began insisting that he should convert to Islam and marry her, after which the man disclosed his caste identity to her parents, he said. They did not object to his caste identity and convinced their daughter to accept it.

But the relations later turned sour, following which the man lodged a case against the woman and her family in December 2022.

The High Court, while granting pre-arrest bail to the woman and her family, said the probe was almost over and hence their custody would not be necessary.

Source: Outlook India

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Pakistan is Home to at Least 12 Terrorist Organizations, Nikki Haley Says


By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 2, 2023

Nikki Haley the United States Presidential Candidate on Wednesday said that Pakistan is home to at least a dozen militant groups, adding that she will cut US foreign aid to Pakistan if she wins the election. 

During an interview with a TV channel, Haley said America is not a money machine for bad people, referencing those who harbor, and support insurgent groups in the region and beyond.

Haley wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that “Pakistan is home to at least a dozen terrorist organizations”.

The republican candidate in an article in New York described the government of Pakistan as a hostage to China. As the US representative at the United Nations, she claims to have convinced former President Donald Trump to cut annual $2 billion military aid to Pakistan, because this country trained and supported insurgent groups to kill American forces.

“Cutting off military aid to Pakistan was a major success for our forces, taxpayers, and our interests, however, as a president, I won’t pay a single rupee,” Nikki Haley said.

In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Haley criticized the US aid to China, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Cuba, and pointed out that money can’t buy friends. She further added, the US sends money to Iraq, however, this country has an affiliation with Iranian proxy forces.

Cutting US aid to those countries that are not playing in America’s interest is one of the foreign policy issues Nikki Haley has seriously addressed so far.

“America cannot be the world’s money machine.”, “As the president, we are trying to reset foreign policy,” she said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Source: Khaama Press

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All Elements of Doha Agreement Should be Implemented: Senior Taliban Member Annas Haqqani


Annas Haqqani, a senior Taliban member says that Doha Agreement paved the way to end a prolonged war in Afghanistan, so other elements of the peace deal should be implemented as well.


By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 1, 2023

Annas Haqqani, a senior Taliban member says that Doha Agreement paved the way to end a prolonged war in Afghanistan, so other elements of the peace deal should be implemented as well.

Shahabuddin Delawar, the Minister of Mines and Petroleum of the Islamic Emirate has said that contrary to the Doha Agreement, the United States acts against Afghanistan’s political sovereignty by violating the country’s airspace.

Minister Delawar reiterated that the Taliban interim government has implemented all elements of the peace agreement, and so should America remain faithful to its commitments. 

Furthermore, Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradar, Taliban’s Deputy Prime Minister, who signed the agreement with the United States, emphasized on engaging with the world, while addressing in a gathering which commemorated the third anniversary of the Doha peace agreement.

Mullah Bradar stated that the Taliban group is fully committed to engaging with the international community, and so should others show their genuine intentions in this regard.

Taliban’s Deputy Prime Minister criticized the United States for illegally freezing the assets of Afghanistan Central Bank, and not allowing the International Community to engage with the Taliban group.

Following nine rounds of discussions, negotiators signed a peace agreement in February 2020 that addresses four main issues:


Withdrawal of foreign forces

Intra-Afghan negotiations

Counterterrorism assurances

This comes as many Afghan politicians and political analysts describe the Doha Agreement between the Taliban and the US, as the main reason for the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. 

Contrary to the Taliban members’ claims, the humanitarian aid organizations and foreign governments accuse the group of violating human rights – the rights of women and girls to work, learn, and appear in public places. The de facto authorities of Afghanistan are also accused of discriminating against religious minorities, political parties, and ethnic groups.

Source: Khaama Press

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Abu Dhabi's Stunning New Multi-Faith Complex "Abrahamic Family House” Is A Mosque, Synagogue and Church


Adam Pourahmadi, CNN


 2nd March 2023

The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday inaugurated the "Abrahamic Family House," an interfaith complex housing a mosque, a church, and the Gulf Arab state's first ever purpose-built synagogue.

Designed by renowned Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye, the project incorporates several architectural styles traditionally found in mosques, churches and synagogues around the world.

The structure draws inspiration from the three Abrahamic faiths and is meant to encapsulate their similarities.

The Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque, which is named after the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, the leading authority on Sunni Islam, is oriented towards Mecca. Its windows are made of delicate latticework, called mashrabiya, and are designed to allow for the circulation of air while regulating light and maintaining privacy.

"What you're going to see in all the projects is that it's always about a filtering of light, a splitting of light," Adjaye told CNN's Becky Anderson.

"In the Mosque... the light surrounds you until you get to the silence and the stoicness of facing Mecca," he said.

His Holiness Francis Church is dedicated to the 13th century monk St. Francis of Assisi, after whom the current Catholic pope is named. It is oriented towards the rising sun in the east. The ceiling is made of timber and is meant to invoke the biblical and Quranic story of Noah's Ark.

In the church, "you hear the sound of rushing water," said Adjaye. "For me, water is so important with Christianity. The church is an ark in the world."

The Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue honors the 12th century Jewish philosopher known as Rabbi Maimonides. The scholar was also a medical doctor who led the Mediterranean Jewish world and whose patients included Saladin, the Muslim ruler of Egypt and Syria.

The synagogue is the UAE's first purpose-built Jewish place of worship and, like most synagogues around the world, is oriented towards Jerusalem. It is inspired by the Jewish festival of the Sukkot, which is celebrated by building temporary shelters. An oculus in the ceiling of the space lets direct light come inside. "The light of the mid-day kisses the rabbi in the center very directly," Adjaye said.

The Jewish community in the UAE had previously used makeshift synagogues.

While entirely unique, each individual building is a 30-meter (98 feet) by 30-meter cube. The unifying design is meant to provide a common base from which tolerance and understanding can be promoted, Adjaye said.

Source: CNN

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UK's 'Prevent' program legitimizes racist attitudes towards Muslims: Expert


Schoolgirls across Iran joined the protests triggered by Mahsa Amini’s death, with many videos on social media showing them taking off headscarves and chanting anti-government slogans, including on school premises. (Twitter)


Gulcin Kazan Doger 


UK's anti-radicalization strategy legitimizes racist attitudes towards Muslims, while creating self-censorship in public, according to an expert.

Speaking to Anadolu, Tarek Younis, a senior lecturer at the University of Middlesex in London, said the government’s controversial anti-radicalization program "Prevent" legitimizes racist attitudes, especially towards Muslims.

"Prevent" is the government’s controversial anti-radicalization program. There have long been calls for an independent review by opponents of the program who claim it discriminates against Muslims.

"In 2015, it became a duty on public bodies to identify and report individuals they suspect might be vulnerable to radicalization, might be vulnerable to becoming terrorists in the future," he said, adding it prompted many ethical issues such as ethics of data sharing.

Younis said that if someone asks a random person on the street whether he or she supports all programs to prevent violence, the answer will be "yes," while the right question would be "do you trust your doctor or psychiatrist to be able to distinguish whether Muslims are extremists?"

"It (Prevent program) certainly legitimizes racist attitudes, especially towards Muslims," noted Younis, who focuses on psychology, culture, race, and religion issues.

He went on to say that the Prevent policy is problematic from its inception -- it's problematic how it's been deployed, how it legitimizes certain attitudes.

"The whole thing is a giant fiasco," he stressed.

Younis also said "the idea of someone who might become vulnerable to becoming a terrorist has very particular racialized connotations," adding that this is an idea of self-censorship that particularly affects Muslims.

"It gives this atmosphere that speaking out of against Prevent or criticizing Prevent is almost akin to as if you're supporting terrorism or you're closing your eyes toward terrorism."

He underlined many research have demonstrated that self-censorship is reality among students who are afraid of sharing their opinions when they know the Prevent policy is in place.

"Prevent is a national safeguarding programme that supports people who are at risk of becoming involved with terrorism through radicalisation," according to the British government.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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 Kashmiri Pandit Killing: Valley-based Pandit Organisation Seeks Removal Of Governor And Action Against Radical Elements

02 MAR 2023

After the latest killing of a 42-year-old Kashmiri Pandit bank guard Sanjay Sharma by militants in the Achan area of Pulwama, the Valley-based Kashmiri Pandit organisation, Kashmir Pandit Sangrash Samithi (KPSS) sought action against “radical Kashmiri population” and “removal of Lt Governor Manoj Sinha” saying “killing of religious minorities and Kashmiryat go hand in hand in Kashmir.”

Sharma was killed when he was outside his home on his way to buy medicine for himself. Three months ago Sharma’s family was provided police protection.

Mohammad Maqbool, Sharma’s colleague and an ATM guard told Outlook that three months ago he was regular to the duty but after the targeted killing of Pandits, he was not joining the duty.

“We were three people on bank guard duty. He was regular in his shifts. But after target killings of the Pandits he was not joining duty,” he said.

Sharma’s neighbours said that he was a graduate and was teaching before joining the bank guard against meagre remuneration. “Long ago when he was unmarried, he fell from a vehicle and sustained head injuries. Since then he would complain of headaches and would take medicine to relieve his pain,” said one of his Muslim neighbours.

Sharma is survived by his wife Sunita and three children; two daughters and a son.

J&K L-G Manoj Sinha condemned the attack saying, “My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family. The administration has given a free hand to security forces to deal with the terrorists and we will continue to combat such acts of terrorism firmly and decisively."

Sharmas were four brothers and they were living jointly. While the two elder brothers were priests, the younger one is in the police service. Sharmas were the only family in the village, which didn’t migrate.

“Deeply saddened to hear of the demise of Sanjay Pandit of Achan in Pulwama district of South Kashmir. Sanjay was working as a bank security guard & was killed in a militant attack earlier today,” former CM and NC leader Omar Abdullah tweeted.

Peoples Conference Chairman Sajad Lone called the killing a "dastardly and cowardly act"

"I wonder what these thugs will achieve. Killing innocents who chose to stay back or come back suits only the worst enemies of Kashmiris," Lone said.

Former CM and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday visited the family to express solidarity with them. “The vicious cycle of killings doesn’t seem to end. GOI has failed to protect minorities in J&K & reduced them to sitting ducks,” Mufti said. She said everyone in the Valley is paying a heavy price for this facade of normalcy.

On Tuesday the police said two local militants involved in the killing of Sharma were killed in Padgampora, Awantipora in Pulwama during an encounter.

Additional Director General of Kashmir Police, Vijay Kumar identified the killed militants as Aqib Mushtaq Bhat and Aijaz. He said, Bhat was associated with the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit earlier and for the past few months he was working with the TRF and while Aijaz was associated with JeM and was also working in coordination with the TRF.

KPSS, however, dismissed the widespread mourning over the killing in Kashmir saying, “Two out of ten (in Kashmir) have turned Over Ground Workers for the terror organisations responsible for the killing of Kashmiri Pandits and other religious minorities in Kashmir Valley. After executing the task, these people join the wailing crowd in stealth mode by giving statements about “Kashmiriyat” and joining candlelight marches,” said Sanjay Tickoo, president of KPSS,  as hundreds of Kashmiri Muslims are mourning the death of Sharma visiting his home in Pulwama. Local villagers protested against the killing of Sharma calling it an “act of terrorism.”

“KPSS, take strong note of the situation in Kashmir Valley and remind the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to intervene on a high level and accept the failure of the current Lt. Governor to address the issue of security of the religious minorities in Kashmir Valley particularly Non-Migrant Kashmiri Pandits, who have become fodder in between Government, Terrorists and Migrant Kashmiri Pandits living luxurious lives outside Kashmir Valley,” Tickoo said.

“Since 1990, the dark times for Kashmiri Pandits continue in Kashmir and the world has turned deaf and blind on this issue which involves the lives and security of the innocent religious minorities living in Kashmir. Islamic countries and scholars repeatedly claim that terror doesn’t have a religion, but they need to see in Kashmir that here it not only has a religion but a face too,” Tickoo said.

“In a proxy war between India and Pakistan in which Muslim Kashmir fighting against Hindu India, the innocent religious minorities living in Kashmir are scapegoats for Pakistan and Muslim Kashmir and Hindu India is concerned about elections and political strategies,” Tickoo said.

Tickoo urged PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to issue necessary directions to initiate a “brutal operation against the militants and their aides to safeguard the lives of the innocents Kashmiri Pandits and other religious minorities living in Kashmir Valley as these militants want war and the Government of India should consider this challenge with an open heart and brutal strategies.”

Source: Outlook India

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Association of Muslim Professionals conference to be held in Lucknow

1st March 2023

The Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) is organizing the North India NGO conference on March 4 and 5 in Lucknow.

The event brings together social leaders and NGOs from North India to collaborate and lay out a roadmap to uplift the socio-economic status of the community and nation.

Ulemas, Policy Makers, Academicians, Intellectuals and Civil Society Activists of National Stature and representatives of more than 500 NGOs from Northern India, working at the ground level would participate to share their experiences and interact with each other for future planning of the direction that the community needs.

Social leaders and their organisations play a great role in shaping an equitable World, lifting human beings from the depths of despair into a realm of hope and joy.

This individual brilliance if brought together on one platform of collaboration would yield results that can change the World.

AMP thus started its NGO connect project a few years ago with the aim of harnessing the power of individual NGOs into a collaborative movement of change.

“We are connected with 5000+ NGOs across India who we help in capacity building and implementing AMP’s social welfare programmes,” the representatives said in a press release.

“We now intend to take this initiative to the next level by focusing on the 200 Backward Minority-dominated Districts of the Country where a large segment of the Community is marginalised and needs to be brought at par with other communities’ social indicators,” they added.

Conference objectives

Plan for the future of the Community

Help in the capacity-building of NGOs

Collaborate to bring about the Change we all desire

Network and share individual success stories

Share useful information on Minority-related issues and Govt. schemes from all over India. –

Execute AMP Projects along with interested NGOs in their respective Geographies

In order to take this mission forward, AMP will be holding zonal conferences

Association of Muslim Professionals

AMP is a non-profit organization of professional Muslims who have come together to perform their bit for the welfare of society.

AMP is a Section 8 company (Non-Profit) registered under the Companies Act 2013, with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).

The above objectives are achieved by providing assistance to needy Individuals – Females & Males, irrespective of Caste, Creed and Religion.

The Islamic Centre of India is a Religious, Cultural, Social and Educational place.

An educational institute name of Darool-Uloom-Farangimahal is situated inside the campus with a Hostel facility and a Mosque.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Pakistan PM Appoints First Ambassador, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, for Kartarpur Corridor To Woo More Sikh Pilgrims

02 MAR 2023

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has appointed Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora as the Ambassador-at-Large for Kartarpur Corridor as part of efforts to attract Sikh pilgrims from across the world, a government notification said on Wednesday.The leading Sikh leader will work in the position in an honorary capacity, the notification said.Arora hailing from Kartarpur in Narowal is also the central general secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) minorities wing. His family has been associated with the protection and welfare of the Sikh holy sites at Kartarpur.

His appointment comes as Kartarpur failed to attract the number of visitors Pakistan authorities had imagined after opening the critical holy site for Sikhs, especially those in India.The Kartarpur corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in the Gurdaspur district in India’s Punjab state. The 4 km-long corridor provides visa-free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the Darbar Sahib.

In November 2019, Prime Minister Khan formally inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor as part of the commemoration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak at a colourful ceremony, paving the way for Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit one of their religion’s holiest sites in Pakistan without needing a visa. Arora, 48, was elected as a member of the provincial assembly of Punjab for the second consecutive term in 2020, according to his profile on the website of the Punjab Assembly. In his first tenure during 2013-18, he was the first parliamentarian in Punjab Assembly who came from the Sikh community since 1947

Source: Outlook India

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Pakistan SC rules polls for Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies must be held by April

Mar 2, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that elections for the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) must be held within 90 days of their dissolution. The five-member bench, led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, gave a split 3-2 decision.

Both Punjab and KP have been under caretaker governments since the provincial assemblies were dissolved last month after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief and former prime minister Imran Khan asked his party’s CMs in the two provinces to do so, in an attempt to pave the way for snap polls.

“Parliamentary democracy is a salient feature of the constitution. There can be no parliamentary democracy without parliament or the provincial assemblies,” the verdict said, adding: “And there can be neither parliament nor provincial assemblies without the holding of general elections as envisaged, required and mandated by and under the constitution and in accordance therewith”. Pakistan routinely holds the provincial and national elections together. The general polls are due by October this year but the dissolution of Punjab and KP assemblies on January 14 and 18, respectively, have paved the way for snap polls.

The top court, in its ruling, held that in situations where a governor dissolved a provincial assembly, the constitutional responsibility of appointing a date for the election was to be discharged by the governor. “In situations where the assembly is not dissolved by the order of the governor, the constitutional responsibility of appointing a date for the general election that must follow is to be discharged by the president.”

The court stated that since elections after the dissolution of a provincial assembly were to be held within a stipulated period of time, the president or the governor “must discharge the constitutional responsibility of appointing a date for the said election swiftly and without any delay and within the shortest time possible”.

According to Pakistan’s constitution, elections must be held within 90 days after the dissolution of a provincial assembly or the National Assembly.

On February 21, president Arif Alvi had unilaterally announced April 9 as the election date in the two provinces, saying that there was “lack of clarity” on the matter. His move had triggered a constitutional crisis, with experts debating on the issue whether he (president) had the right to announce the date for polls in provinces.

Following Alvi’s call for polls, the SC took suo moto cognizance to determine which government institution had the constitutional responsibility of deciding the election dates.

The SC ruled that since the governor of Punjab, Muhammad Baligh Ur Rehman, did not sign the order declaring the dissolution of the assembly, the president had the constitutional responsibility to announce the election date in the province. It further noted that KP governor Haji Ghulam Ali, despite signing the dissolution order on January 18, failed to declare a poll date, which was a “breach of his constitutional responsibility”.

Source: Times Of India

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Let's hope Church recognizes Pakistan’s modern-day martyr

March 02, 2023

I remember March 2, 2011 — twelve years ago — as if it was yesterday. That morning, I woke up and as usual switched on the radio and my laptop to find out what the world’s news was that day. Within moments, the main headline news hit me between the eyes, and in my heart. My friend Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities, had been assassinated.

In many respects, it was not a surprise. All of us who knew and worked with Shahbaz knew the risks he was facing. He received multiple death threats every day. Almost exactly three months earlier, the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, had been killed by his own bodyguard. Both men were targeted because of their courageous stand against Pakistan’s unjust and draconian blasphemy laws, and their support for a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death under the law.

Shahbaz had requested a bullet-proof car and a more secure house because he knew the danger was real. Despite appeals to the Pakistani government by international politicians for better security for Shahbaz, no such protection was provided. Indeed, on the day of his assassination, his bodyguards did not show up for work.

In a sign of just how real the threats were, Shahbaz even took the step of recording a message that he requested to be broadcast in the event of his death.

In words that summed up the faith and courage that had been so consistent throughout his life as a grassroots human rights activist and politician, he said:

“These Taliban threaten me. But I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of the cross and I am following the cross. I am ready to die for a cause. I am living for my community and suffering people and I will die to defend their rights.”

Those words, broadcast by the BBC after his murder, encapsulate the essence of Shahbaz and should stand as his epitaph.

But although we knew the danger Shahbaz was in, his assassination was still of course a shock, particularly due to its horrific manner. The killers drove to the street where he lived, blocked the route, and fired their Kalashnikovs through the windscreen. They then dragged the driver out and continued firing at Shahbaz through the side windows and doors.

It was reported that at least 25 bullets were fired, eight of which struck Shahbaz. Pamphlets were then scattered, declaring Shahbaz to be an “infidel Christian” who deserved death. According to doctors, he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Even 12 years on, it is not easy to write this without my eyes welling up with tears. I had the immense privilege of working closely with Shahbaz. Working for the international human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which specializes in religious freedom for all, I focused on Pakistan for at least five years.

During that time Shahbaz was an activist, the founder of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), and was at the forefront of campaigning for the rights of minorities of all religions and for women. We spoke several times a week, were in almost daily e-mail contact and traveled together in Pakistan.

Shahbaz with his mentor, the late Cecil Chaudhry, were CSW’s closest partners. Chaudhry, a highly decorated national war hero and former ace fighter pilot, had become a human rights campaigner after he had been denied promotion in the Pakistani air force because he was a Christian.

Chaudhry, who died of cancer just over a year after Shahbaz’s assassination, brought great wisdom that complemented Shahbaz’s idealism, but the two, both devout Catholics, were extraordinarily courageous leaders and Pakistan today is poorer without them.

Shahbaz and I shared several profound experiences together. On one occasion we missed a bomb together by five minutes in Islamabad. We had been meeting for dinner with others in the Marriot Hotel in Pakistan’s capital and had left just five minutes before a bomb exploded in the lobby.

On another occasion, Shahbaz took me to meet a little seven-year-old girl who had been brutally raped and tortured, simply because she came from a Christian family. Shahbaz was helping her and her family because no one else would.

In 2007, a Christian community in Charsadda in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province received threats from extremists, with an ultimatum: convert to Islam or face the consequences. I had been trying for several days to mobilize the international community’s efforts, but on the night the deadline was due to expire, I feared the worst. I telephoned Shahbaz and to my surprise, he told me he was in Charsadda.

“Thank God you have called,” he told me. The community was terrified, they expected an attack at any moment, and he had gone to be with them. That was so typical of Shahbaz.

But he also told me that the community had been praying. They felt alone, they felt that the rest of the world did not know or did not care. Then he said words that have stayed with me ever since, and which I remember every time I question for a second whether my efforts are worthwhile:

“Ben, the fact that you have telephoned means I can tell them that someone does know, someone does care, and someone is praying for them and speaking for them.”

But Shahbaz was never just focused on his own Christian community. He defended the rights of other religious minorities — Hindus, Sikhs, Shia Muslims, and Ahmadiyya Muslims — and built bridges with Sunni Muslims who opposed extremism and intolerance and wanted a Pakistan based on the vision of its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who famously said: “You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste, or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

In his final years, as a government minister, Shahbaz was invited by senior Islamic religious leaders to speak at large mosques, and he secured a ground-breaking statement from religious leaders denouncing terrorism. He launched a network of ‘district inter-faith harmony committees’ to encourage dialogue and unite communities across religious divides.

In October 2009, almost 18 months before his assassination, Shahbaz addressed CSW’s annual conference in London. As usual, his first request was for prayer. And he summed up his life’s vocation with these words:

“I live for religious freedom, and I am ready to die for this cause. We have a commitment to bring a change in the lives of people. We will bring a change in the lives of those who are living in darkness, we will bring a change in the lives of those who don’t have hope, and we will bring a smile on the faces of those living under severe harassment and victimization…”

He continued: “This is the key objective of my life — to live for those who are voiceless, who are suffering. We need to change the plight of those who are living in the darkness of persecution, victimization, and that is the commitment we made, to bring justice for those who are denied justice.”

Shahbaz challenged head-on the “forces of intolerance,” promising that in unity with others, “we will not allow you to capture our country.” He called on his audience to join him in this struggle: “Let’s pledge that we will work together to promote harmony and tolerance. We will bridge the gaps among different faiths. We will strengthen this world with the message of peace and tolerance.”

If only the world today would heed his message.

Almost every day I remember Shahbaz — not only his inspiring faith and courage, but also his remarkable humility and humor. He is an inspiration to me, and yes, he is a hero — and will hopefully be recognized by the Church one day as a saint and martyr.

The day after his murder, I wrote an article in which I described him as “Pakistan’s Martin Luther King,” and I still believe that. Yet in my mind, he is not so much on a pedestal as alongside me as a companion. A cause for his canonization has been started and he should be recognized as a saint, but for me, he was my friend — and a constant awakener of my conscience.

Whenever I am in Rome, without fail I make it a priority to go to the Basilica di San Bartolomeo all’Isola, where Shahbaz’s personal Bible is on display in commemoration of modern-day martyrs. I try always to go to spend a few moments in front of his Bible, to say a prayer, light a candle and rededicate my life to the cause for which my friend gave his: the cause of human freedom, human rights and human life.

Ten years ago this year, I was received into the Catholic Church by another friend, spiritual mentor and hero of mine, Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Bo, in Yangon’s St. Mary’s Cathedral on Palm Sunday 2013 — two years after Shahbaz’s murder.

There were many Catholics, living and in the past, who inspired and shaped my journey into the Church, but Shahbaz played a pivotal role and, through his example of extraordinary self-sacrifice, humility, service, courage and faith, moved me onwards in my own relationship with the Divine.

As we journey along the path of Lent, moving towards our Lord’s Passion, I know Shahbaz’s overriding message would be this: endure the suffering, in the hope and knowledge of the Resurrection.

We may not all be called to die to defend the rights of others, but we are for sure all called to live to do so.

The best way to honor my friend and brother Shahbaz today is to resolve to redouble our efforts to fight for basic liberty, freedom of conscience, human rights, dignity and life — for people of every faith and none.

Source: UCA News

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Apex court ruling on polls termed ‘constitutional win’

Zaki Abbas

March 2, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leadership was over the moon after a five-member Supreme Court bench directed elections to the provincial assemblies should be held within 90 days — a decision described by the legal community as a victory for the Constitution.

In a 3-2 ruling, the top court held that in situations where a governor dissolved a provincial assembly, the constitutional responsibility of app­ointing a date for the election was to be discharged by the governor.

“In situations where the assembly is not dissolved by order of the governor, the constitutional responsibility of appointing a date for the general election that must follow is to be discharged by the president.”

PTI Senator Ali Zafar, who is also a lawyer, tweeted, “Justice prevails. The Supreme Court has ordered elections in Punjab and KP to be held within 90 days of dissolution.

Sherry asks president to resign; Mazari seeks KP governor’s resignation for ‘breaching’ the Constitution

Similarly, former human rights minister Shireen Mazari stated the decision was a victory for the PTI and the Constitution. She also asked the KP governor, Ghulam Ali, to resign for having been “found in breach of the Constitution”. “The man should have some shame and resign,” she added.

Meanwhile, the PML-N did not appear happy with the verdict. Its leader Ahsan Iqbal in a thinly-veiled tweet after the order said, “History will prove that the characters who have brought Pakistan to this stage by removing the successful PML-N government by rigging and imposing…Imran Niazi in the 2018 elections will be written with the criminals of 1971.”

On the other hand, PPP leader Sherry Rehman demanded an apology from President Arif Alvi, who unilaterally announced the date for elections last week, for purportedly violating the constitutional authority.

“By withdrawing the ‘announcement’ of election dates in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the president proved that he had issued an unconstitutional order,” Senator Rehman claimed.

“Just withdrawing the decision is not enough, the president should apologise for his unconstitutional action,” she said and also referred to Mr Alvi’s decision to disband the National Assembly in April last year on the advice of Imran Khan.

Pildat President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said the only question to be answered by the ruling was ‘who would fix the date for polls’. “SC order not clear whether president & governor KP are bound by advice of PM and CM respectively regarding the poll date,” he said in a tweet.

‘Clear command of Constitution’

Meanwhile, lawyer Abdul Moiz Jaferii told Geo News that the Constitution was clear about elections within 90 days after the dissolution of assemblies and that there was no ambiguity in this regard. He said a democratic deficit was prevalent, adding that the government was afraid to go to polls because it was afraid of defeat.

Salaar Khan, another lawyer, tweeted: “To the extent that the ECP is to confer with the governor for a date in Punjab, that is clear. But to the extent that, in Punjab, it has to confer with the President, the reasoning should be interesting (the LHC had earlier asked the ECP to confer with the governor).”

He, however, added that the ruling “affirms the clear command of the Constitution” that elections must be held in 90 days.

Source: Dawn

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Cases filed against PTI leaders, activists for forcibly entering IHC, Judicial Complex

Munawer Azeem

March 2, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Separate cases were registered against the leaders and activists of the PTI, including former prime minister Imran Khan and 28 other people, police said on Wednesday.

Among those arrested were officials from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police as well as private guards.

One of the cases was registered with Ramna police station on a complaint lodged by Station House Officer (SHO) Rasheed Ahmed.

According to the first information report (FIR), a mob under the leadership of PTI Chairman Imran Khan came to the Judicial Complex in G-11/1 and chanted provocative slogans. The charged mob of leaders and activists holding batons, stones, weapons and party flags reached the main gate of the complex and tried to enter it forcefully, the FIR said, adding that assistant commissioner Potohar and other officers asked them to stop at the gate, but they ignored and scuffled with the officers and officials on duty.

FIR states mob threatened officials on duty, damaged official property; ATC grants pre-arrest interim bail to Senator Shahzad Waseem, Raja Khurram Nawaz

The mob also broke the main gate and other hurdles and entered the complex’s premises, the FIR said, adding that it threatened people who had come for the hearing and officers deployed on security duty.

The charged activists broke the CCTV cameras installed there and damaged official property, it said, adding that they also tore the cause list and broke furniture.

The former prime minister, Raja Khurram Nawaz, Murad Saeed, Ali Nawaz, Jamshaid Mughal, Hassan Niazi, Ahmad Khan Niazi, Abdul Qudoos Khan Swati, Amir Kiani, Farrukh Habib, Dr Shahzad Wasim, Raja Basharat, Tahir Sadiq, Wasiq Qayyum, Shibli Faraz, Mian Aslam, retired Col Asim, Chaudhry Mudasir Riaz, Omer Sultan, Ghulam Sarwar and Hammad Azhar were nominated along with 250 activists.

Ramna police registered another case against 20 PTI leaders along with 150 activists. The content of the FIR is almost identical to the previous one, except that Islamabad High Court (IHC) has replaced Judicial Complex, G-11/1. The sequence of the names nominated in the FIR has also slightly been changed.

According to the FIR, a mob under the leadership of Imran came to the IHC and tried to enter the court’s premises. They broke the main gate and other hurdles put in place, damaged official property and threatened officials on duty, it said.

As many as 29 people were arrested, police said, adding that most of them were officials of KP police who were performing security duties with former MPAs as well as their private security guards.

Meanwhile, a case has yet to be registered on the complaint lodged against the police for manhandling journalists.

There were some reports that the inspector general of police (IGP) Islamabad and the chief commissioner had been called to the IHC and were asked to meet with the journalists and resolve the issue, the police officials said.

Meanwhile, the public relations officer (PRO) for the police said there was only one KP police official and one private security guard among the arrested people. He confirmed that the case in response to the journalists’ manhandling incident was yet to be registered as an inquiry had been ordered.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Operation Malik Jamil Zaffar is conducting the inquiry and the journalists were asked to appear before them, but so far they have not, he added.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Islamabad on Wednesday granted pre-arrest interim bail to PTI leaders Senator Shahzad Waseem and Raja Khurram Nawaz in a case related to vandalism in the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) during the appearance of former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

ATC Judge Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan granted them pre-arrest interim bail against Rs100,000 surety bonds each. They had sought pre-arrest bail in the case registered with Ramna police. Further hearing in this matter has been adjourned till March 13.

A case was registered against suspects on various charges, including 7-ATA (Anti-Terrorism Act) and Section 353 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The police statement said leaders of a political party incited the mob to create a law and order situation.

The PTI chairman appeared before the ATC and Special Court on Offences in Banks in connection with two different cases.

Source: Dawn

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South Asia


Taliban Announce Reopening of Universities, but Only for Male Students

Akmal Dawi

March 01, 2023

De facto Taliban authorities have announced the reopening of state-run universities in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and several other cities, but say only male students will be allowed to attend.

“According to a decision by the Supreme Council for Higher Education,” reads a short statement from the Taliban’s Ministry of Higher Education, “studies of the male students at governmental higher education institutions in the colder provinces will officially start from [March 6] of the current year.”

Schools and universities go on annual winter break in about 24 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

The Islamist government banned higher education for female students last year, saying women had not appropriately observed gender-based religious restrictions under the prior government, which was backed by the United States.

Since seizing power in August 2021, the Taliban have also shut down secondary schools for female students, saying the ban is temporary.

“Taliban are running out of time to make a decision on reopening girls’ secondary, high school and universities,” said Orzala Nemat, an Afghan activist and researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. “This is the demand of the general public, community elders, religious scholars and even some of their own members feel embarrassed to support this un-Islamic and unjustified act.”

Afghanistan is the only country where women and girls are officially barred from education and work, according to human rights groups.

The gender-based discriminatory policy has been maintained even while it costs hundreds of millions of dollars for Afghanistan’s beleaguered economy, the United Nations has reported.

Possible internal divisions

Facing domestic and global condemnation, some Taliban officials have reportedly shown disapproval of the government's misogynistic policies.

“The Taliban leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, appears to insist upon these measures out of personal conviction and to assert his authority over the movement and the country,” the International Crisis Group said in a report last month.

Not seen in public, Akhundzada is nevertheless revered as a god among the Taliban. He has no term limit and has unchecked powers over everything within the Taliban government.

“The Taliban are in an internal power struggle,” said Pashtana Durrani, director of Learn Afghanistan, a nongovernment organization supporting education for girls and women.

“Right now, the Taliban are in a stalemate where they can't remove or impeach the amir, and the amir is a man who thinks women in schools and universities are haram,” Durrani told VOA, using the Islamic term for forbidden.

For Farahnaz Forotan, a prominent female journalist who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban captured Kabul, the denial of education for girls and women is a sadistic power play by the Taliban leader with catastrophic consequences for millions of Afghans.

“How can a poor country compensate for two years of no education for girls? The losses are catastrophic and irreparable,” said Forotan, who spoke to VOA from her home in the U.S. state of Maryland.

Cracking down on internal dissent, the Taliban have defied international calls, including from renowned Islamic institutions, to lift the bans on women’s work and education, saying the world should not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

Source: VOA News

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Afghanistan Resumes Passport Distribution After Five-Month Break

By Fidel Rahmati

March 1, 2023

After over five months of hiatus in passport distribution services due to ‘technical issues’, the process resumed on Wednesday.

According to Mawlavi Abdul Haseeb Karim, General Director of the passport Department, the technical problems have been resolved, and the distribution of passports will resume.

Mr Karim stated earlier last week that everyone should have access to a passport and that the Central Passport Department is dedicated to offering all of the necessary services for citizens.

He said that the relevant department is making every effort to resolve the existing issues and increase the number of passports that can be granted to individuals all throughout the country.

Additionally, he stated that all provinces including Kabul would offer online passport registration.

Moreover, an official said that efforts had been doubled to increase the distribution of passports to 10,000 copies daily.

Source: Khaama Press

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Delawar: Islamic Emirate Wants Good Relations with Intl Community

By Fatema Adeeb

The acting minister of Mines and Petroleum in a special interview with TOLOnews said that the current government is bound by all its commitments to the world.

Shahabuddin Delawar said that the Islamic Emirate, according to the Doha Agreement, wants good relations with the world, and the international community must have good interactions with them. He added that Islamic Emirate diplomatic missions are active in some countries.

"The world also needs good interaction with Afghanistan and the world cannot ignore Afghanistan's geographical location and the people of Afghanistan," said Shahabuddin Delawar, acting minister of Mines and Petroleum.

Delawar also added that Islamic Emirate is committed to the rights of all citizens of the country.

"If they want to govern based on Islam the rights of every person will not be violated, if they really govern based on Islam," said Ramazan Bashardost, a former member of the parliament.

Meanwhile, the former US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the observance of human rights, especially for women, is important for the international community and for the US and attention should be paid to the rights of women in Afghanistan.

"Regarding the Islamic Emirate orders for women's education and work, the position of the US is clear and I am also against these orders," said Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US special envoy for Afghanistan.

Source: Tolo News

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Islamic Emirate officials take over Afghan embassy in Iran

1st March 2023

Officials from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have taken over official duties in the Afghan Embassy in Tehran – making Iran the latest country to accept IEA-appointed diplomats while still not officially recognising their 18-month-old government.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry said that it had dispatched a seven-member team of “experienced diplomats, led by a newly appointed chargé d’affaires” to the Iranian capital to formally assume responsibility for Afghanistan’s diplomatic mission there.

The statement described the development as an “important and cooperative step” in bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Iran.

“We believe that with the new appointments, we would witness transparency in the affairs of the embassy as well as expanded relations in various fields between the two Muslim and brotherly countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said.

Iran described the development as an internal issue.

“The issue of handing over and transformation of the Afghan embassy in Tehran is an internal matter (related to Afghanistan) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran has not entered into the matter by any means,” an official statement said.

“Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not received any document or equipment or any other object belonging to the Afghan Embassy in Tehran,” it added.

Iran joins several neighbouring and regional countries to have allowed the IEA to appoint staff and manage Afghan diplomatic missions. These include Pakistan, China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Turkey, Qatar, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

Dozens of Afghanistan’s diplomatic missions around the world are open for business but in most cases the host nations have either refused to hand them over to the IEA, or Afghan diplomats working there are reportedly unwilling to work with the new Kabul administration.

Iran and Afghanistan share many cultural ties. For example, many Afghans speak Persian, as Dari (an eastern dialect of Persian) is one of the official languages of Afghanistan, and many also celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year. There are also millions of Afghan refugees in Iran.

However, relations between Iran and Afghanistan were strained during the first Islamic Emirate in the 90s. But since the second Islamic Emirate was formed in 2021 Iran and Kabul have opened trade and other commercial relations.

No nation has yet recognised the IAE since they overthrew the U.S.-led NATO occupation after almost 20 years of war.

Source: 5pillars UK

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Bangladesh struggles to meet Hajj quota as airfares, inflation soar


March 01, 2023

DHAKA: Bangladesh is struggling to meet its Hajj quota as the local currency continues to lose its value and skyrocketing airfares this season are making the journey impossible for many hopeful pilgrims.

This year, 127,000 Bangladeshi pilgrims can participate in the Hajj, a spiritual journey and one of the five pillars of Islam. The quota was agreed upon by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh earlier this year.

The Hajj registration opened on Feb. 8, but so far only 32,000 people have applied as of Wednesday.

Authorities say the situation is unprecedented.

“I haven’t heard of such a situation ever happening in our country,” Saiful Islam, director of the Hajj Office Dhaka, told Arab News.

This year, the Hajj will start on June 26 and end on July 1. Registration for the pilgrimage in Bangladesh runs through March 7.

“I believe the number of registered pilgrims will increase on March 7. We are hopeful,” Islam said, adding, however, that the government is not planning any subsidies to address the situation.

Hajj tour operators attribute the problem to high inflation in Bangladesh and pricey airfares to the Middle East, which have significantly increased since last year.

“It happens here due to the devaluation of the taka against the dollar,” said Maulana Eyaqub Sharafati, senior vice president of the Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh.

“Airfares for Hajj pilgrims have increased by around $580 this year compared to last year. It was $1,400 last year, but this year it is fixed at around $2,000.”

But he has not lost hope, as the number of pilgrims this year is the country’s highest Hajj quota since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Arab News

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Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan ‘Mohammad Sadiq’ Resigns

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 1, 2023

Senior diplomat Mohammad Sadiq Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan resigned on Wednesday, thanking colleagues for helping him serve in the crucial position.

Mohammad Sadiq said in a series of Tweets on Wednesday that after serving nearly three years as Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan, the time had come for him to move on and focus on personal stuff – family, books and agriculture, and more. 

The prominent diplomat wholeheartedly thanked the prime minister and all his colleagues for supporting him during his mission as their special representative for Afghanistan.

Mr. Sadiq’s resignation was accepted by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who appreciated his efforts in the capacity of Pakistan’s envoy to make Pakistan-Afghanistan relation work.

Pakistan’s Former Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed Mohmmad Sadiq in the crucial position in June 2020.

Between December 2008 and April 2014, Mr. Sadiq served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul, and in 2016, he was appointed as the secretary of the national security division. Mr. Sadiq has also served as the ambassador of Pakistan to Washington DC, Beijing, and Brussels.

Many Pakistani politicians and political experts took on Twitter and appreciated Mr. Sadiq for all the services he has done for his country, and wished him success in his future endeavors.

Mr. Sadiq was part of the Pakistan delegation that traveled to Kabul headed by Defense Minister Khawaja Asif on February 25, aimed at discussing security concerns with the Afghan Taliban authorities.

Source: Khaama Press

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700,000 people lost their jobs since regime change in Afghanistan: UN envoy

1 March, 2023

Kabul [Afghanistan], March 1 (ANI): Ramiz Alakbarov, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that Afghanistan’s gross income has declined by 35 per cent, and nearly 700,000 people have lost their jobs over the past 18 months, the Khaama Press reported.

Alakbarov, in a press conference on Tuesday, said that 65 per cent of the people need humanitarian aid, and millions are on the verge of catastrophic starvation in Afghanistan.

According to the Khaama Press, a high-ranking UN official in Afghanistan has said that the price of essential food items has increased by 30 per cent, and three-fourths of the ordinary people’s income goes to food only.

Furthermore, he highlighted that currently, 28.3 million people in Afghanistan are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, and six million people are on the verge of starvation.

Besides the devastating earthquakes which hit Turkiye and Syria the worst in decades, the situation in Afghanistan is considered the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world in 2023, and natural disasters have added to the problem of the people as well.

As per the report by the Khaama Press, Alakbarov described the natural disasters including floods and earthquakes in 2022 as quite unprecedented in Afghanistan and said that natural disasters might also adversely affect people in 2023.

The United Nations has repeatedly called on rich countries to donate generously and help this organization in offering life-saving services for needy people across the world.

“Budget request for Afghanistan make only 9 per cent of the total fund for global humanitarian aid, and it is requested that special attention should be paid to the Afghan people due to the existing humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country,” Alakbarov said.

Source: The Print

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Arab World


Smuggled Iranian weapons seized in Gulf of Oman, British Royal Navy says

02 March ,2023

Britain’s Royal Navy said on Thursday it had seized Iranian weapons, including anti-tank guided missiles, last month from a smugglers’ vessel in international waters in the Gulf of Oman.

Britain said the vessel was detected traveling south from Iran at high speed during the hours of darkness by an unmanned US intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance plane and was also tracked by a British helicopter.

When hailed by the Royal Navy, the vessel initially attempted to navigate to Iranian territorial waters but was stopped by a team of Royal Marines, who then boarded the small boat and recovered the suspicious packages, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said.

“This seizure by HMS Lancaster and the permanent presence of the Royal Navy in the Gulf region supports our commitment to uphold international law and tackle activity that threatens peace and security around the world,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Top Lebanese intel chief, mediator with Syria steps down

01 March ,2023

A Lebanese intelligence chief who has mediated the release of Westerners held in Syria and also acted as a mediator within Lebanon stepped down Wednesday after attempts to extend his term failed.

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim’s term as a head of the General Security Directorate ends Thursday, when he reaches retirement age of 64 in Lebanon. On Wednesday afternoon, he left his office and was replaced by Brig. Gen. Elias Baisary as acting head of the agency.

“We will continue the march in different fields to serve Lebanon,” Ibrahim said before leaving.

Ibrahim, who headed General Security Directorate since 2011, is known for wide connections with different local, regional and international figures, including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, the Syrian government and Western nations.

A Shia Muslim, he was tipped to eventually replace longtime Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri who turned 85 in January. When asked by local media whether he intended to replace the speaker, Ibrahim said: “May God grant Speaker Berri a long life.”

Under Lebanon’s power-sharing agreement, the country’s president has to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shia. Ibrahim said if offered a ministerial job, he would like to become foreign minister.

Ibrahim’s term ends at a time when Lebanon has no president since Michel Aoun’s term ended in late October, with a deeply divided parliament unable to elect a successor. The country is also without a fully-functional government, with Prime Minister Najib Mikati heading a caretaker Cabinet.

Mikati indicated last week that Ibrahim’s term may be extended but no parliament session was held to do this nor has Berri scheduled one.

A rarity in Lebanon, Ibrahim had good ties with Hezbollah, the United States and the international community, making him a key political mediator. At times, he also acted as a diplomatic representative for Lebanon abroad, roles usually outside a top security official’s mandate.

One of his biggest cases was that of American journalist Austin Tice, missing in Syria since August 2012. The US says Tice is being held by the Syrian government while Damascus denies holding him. Last year, Ibrahim met with US officials in Washington as part of his mediation efforts for Tice’s release and later went to the Syrian capital of Damascus but did not reach a breakthrough.

In 2019, Ibrahim’s mediation led to the release of American Samuel Goodwin, who was held for two months in Syria. That same year, Ibrahim mediated the release of Kristian Lee Baxter, a Canadian citizen held in Syrian prisons for almost a year.

Source: Al Arabiya

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UN chief visits Iraq for first time in 6 years

01 March ,2023

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in Iraq Wednesday for talks with senior officials in a show of “solidarity” after a drawn-out political crisis.

The UN chief’s visit, his first to Iraq in six years, comes as the war-torn country prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the toppling of longtime dictator Saddam Hussein in a US-led invasion.

Guterres said he wanted to demonstrate “solidarity with the people and the democratic institutions of Iraq and a solidarity that means that the United Nations is totally committed to support the consolidation of the institutions in this country.”

He said he also wanted to express his “confidence that Iraqis will be able to overcome the difficulties and challenges they still face through an open and inclusive dialog.”

Guterres, who arrived late Tuesday, is due to hold talks with Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, before meeting Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, President Abdel Latif Rashid and parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi, the foreign ministry said.

The three leaders are respectively Iraq’s top Shia, Kurdish, and Sunni Arab officials under the sectarian power-sharing system established after the US-led invasion toppled Saddam’s Sunni Arab-dominated regime.

Guterres will also meet representatives of women’s and youth rights groups.

On Thursday, he will visit a camp for displaced people in the north of the country, before heading to Kurdistan regional capital Arbil for talks with Kurdish officials.

Source: Al Arabiya

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WHO chief visits opposition-held Syria for first time after quake

01 March ,2023

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited opposition-held northwestern Syria on Wednesday, his first trip to areas outside Damascus’s control since a devastating quake last month, an AFP correspondent reported.

Tedros was the highest-ranking United Nations official to visit the opposition-held zones since the February 6 quake.

He entered from neighboring Turkey via the Bab al-Hawa crossing and visited several hospitals and a shelter for those displaced, the correspondent said.

The Bab al-Hawa crossing is located in the Idlib region, which UN officials rarely visit and is controlled by the terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

In the aftermath of the quake, activists and emergency teams in the opposition-held northwest decried the UN’s slow response, contrasting it with the planeloads of humanitarian aid that have been delivered to government-controlled airports.

UN relief chief Martin Griffiths admitted on February 12 that the body had “so far failed the people in northwest Syria.”

A total of 420 trucks loaded with UN aid have crossed into the opposition-held pocket since the tragedy.

More than four million people live in areas outside government control in Syria’s north and northwest, 90 percent of whom depend on aid to survive.

Tedros’s trip comes after he met President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on February 12.

The 7.8-magnitude quake that struck war-torn Syria and Turkey killed more than 50,000 people across the two countries.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi Arabia, UK sign defence agreement

01 March ,2023

Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman has met with Britain’s Defense Minister Ben Wallace on Wednesday in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

During the meeting a declaration of intent regarding the Kingdom's participation in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program has been signed, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Source: Al Arabiya

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Egypt to use daylight saving time again in a bid to save energy

March 01, 2023

CAIRO: Egypt will again use daylight saving time this summer after a seven-year gap, the cabinet said on Wednesday, the latest in a series of government efforts to save energy.

Last year the Egyptian government announced a raft of rules to reduce government and commercial energy use so that the country could export more natural gas, a key foreign currency earner.

Changing the clocks “comes in light of global circumstances and economic shifts, as the government strives to rationalize energy usage,” the cabinet said while announcing the draft law that is expected to be approved by the country’s parliament.

The practice, which has been introduced and abolished at varying points in Egypt’s history, was last used in 2014, and is seen by some as a relic of the country’s previous regimes.

Clocks will be brought forward one hour beginning on the last Friday of April, with the change ending on the last Thursday in October every year, according to the cabinet.

Source: Arab News

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British Navy says it has seized smuggled Iranian weapons in Gulf

March 02, 2023

Dubai: The British navy seized anti-tank missiles and fins for ballistic missile assemblies during a raid on a small boat heading from Iran likely to Yemen, authorities said Thursday, the latest such seizure in the Gulf of Oman.

The seizure by the Royal Navy comes after other seizures by French and US forces in the region as Western powers increase their pressure on Iran, as it now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels. It also comes as regional and international powers try to find an end to the yearslong war gripping Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, and as Iran arms Russia in its war on Ukraine.

The raid took place Feb. 23 after an American aircraft detected a small boat heading from Iran, with a helicopter from the Royal Navy frigate HMS Lancaster giving chase to the vessel, the British Defense Ministry said. The boat tried to reenter Iranian territorial water, but was stopped before it could.

Inside the boat, British troops found Russian 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missiles, known in Iran as “Dehlavieh,” the US Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet and the British navy said. Those weapons have been seen in other seizures suspected to be from Iran and bound for Yemen.

Also on board were small fins that the US Navy identified as jet vanes for medium-range ballistic missiles. Iranian components have helped build a missile arsenal for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who have held the country’s capital, Sanaa, since 2014.

A United Nations resolution bans arms transfers to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Tehran long has denied arming the rebels, despite physical evidence, numerous seizures and experts tying the weapons back to Iran.

“This seizure by HMS Lancaster and the permanent presence of the Royal Navy in the Gulf region supports our commitment to uphold international law and tackle activity that threatens peace and security around the world,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of the American 5th Fleet, said in a statement that this was the “seventh illegal weapon or drug interdiction in the last three months and yet another example of Iran’s increasing malign maritime activity across the region.”

Iranian state media did not immediately acknowledge the seizure. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The war in Yemen has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. However, Saudi-led airstrikes haven’t been recorded in Yemen since the kingdom began a cease-fire at the end of March 2022, according to the Yemen Data Project.

Source: Arab News

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Solidarity shown with Türkiye during quake disaster can open new page in relations: EU

Selen Temizer  



The solidarity the EU showed after earthquakes struck Türkiye last month could open a new page in relations, according to the bloc’s commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management.

Janez Lenarcic emphasized at the European parliament's Development Committee that the EU will continue to support Türkiye with all its means.

The support will need to continue beyond the EU for the foreseeable future and the wider international community will need to assist in reconstruction and rehabilitation, he said.

Lenarcic said an international donor conference in Brussels later this month, organized by the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, should not only be generous but ensure the reconstruction process is better.

He said the EU has allocated more than €8 million (48.5 million) in humanitarian aid to meet the most urgent needs in affected provinces and is looking for additional funding from other parts of the Commission to help after the Feb. 6 tremors.


Regarding Syria, Lenarcic emphasized that sanctions against the Bashar al-Assad regime do not prevent the entry of humanitarian aid to the country but act sensitively so that the help does not fall into the hands of the regime.

Lenarcic said within 48 hours of the earthquakes, an additional €3.5 million in emergency humanitarian aid was dispatched and delivered through the EU's humanitarian center in Beirut, through partner international organizations.

The co-chairman of the European Union-Türkiye Joint Parliamentary Committee, Sergey Lagodinsky, also pointed out that Europe is facing the second-biggest humanitarian and reconstruction crisis after the war in Ukraine.

He said he visited the earthquake zone last week and noted the crisis could cover months or years.

"Despite the tragedy, we also see a chance. This is a chance to renew our relations with our Turkish partners. We have difficulties that will remain in the political arena. But this human dimension and humanitarian action can bring us closer together. The EU is still a European family, regardless of its membership. It can show that we are.”

On the donors' conference in Brussels, Lagodinsky said: "I think we should be ready to provide assistance in a way that leaves no room for ambiguity, doubt or political accusation."

The death toll from the devastating earthquakes that struck Türkiye rose to 45,089, the country’s disaster management agency, AFAD, said early Wednesday.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Germany slams Iran decision to expel 2 diplomats in tit-for-tat move



Germany's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday lambasted Iran's decision to expel two German diplomats from Iran in a tit-for-tat move.

"Today's step was to be expected after the expulsion of two Iranian diplomats on February 22, but from the German government's point of view it is in no way justified," according to a Foreign Ministry press statement.

Germany expelled two employees of the Iranian Embassy in Berlin last week in response to Tehran sentencing a German national to death.

The German expulsion of two Iranian diplomats came in protest to Tehran’s sentencing German national Jamshid Sharmahd to death.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Wednesday that Germany was interfering in Iran’s “internal and judicial affairs.”

Tehran accused Sharmahd of leading the armed wing of a pro-monarchist group, which his family denied.

In other related news, the German Foreign Ministry condemned Iran's reported development of long-range cruise missiles.

"We have noted the Iranian media reports on the development of a new long-range missile. We are watching the ongoing Iranian armament with concern, not least because Iran is currently escalating in many areas," a press statement said.

"This includes nuclear-political steps such as the uranium enrichment in Fordow, the brutal repression against its own population as well as Iran's destabilizing activities in the region and with the drone deliveries to Russia also beyond. We are in close contact with our partners in the Gulf, in the USA and within Europe on this development," the ministry added.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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North America


US Slams Israeli Minister’s ‘Disgusting’ Comments about Palestinian Village

01 March, 2023

The US on Wednesday lambasted Israel’s finance minister for “repugnant, irresponsible, and disgusting” comments after he called for wiping out the Palestinian village of Huwara.

During a press briefing, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said the remarks by Bezalel Smotrich amounted to an “incitement to violence.”

Smotrich said the village of Huwara needed to be wiped out. “I think the state of Israel should do it,” he said in televised remarks.

Price called on PM Benjamin Netanyahu and other government members to publicly condemn the comments. “Just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence,” he added.

Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir have been at odds with the Biden administration over their far-right policies, including a pledge to expand illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

Washington has publicly and privately urged the Netanyahu government, considered one of the most extreme in the country’s history, against moving ahead with this move.

Source: Al Arabiya

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SpaceX launches UAE, US, Russian astronauts on voyage to space station

March 02, 2023

CAPE CANAVERAL: SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA on Thursday, including the first person from the Arab world going up for an extended monthslong stay.

The Falcon rocket bolted from Kennedy Space Center shortly after midnight, illuminating the night sky as it headed up the East Coast..

Nearly 80 spectators from the United Arab Emirates watched from the launch site as astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi — only the second Emirati to fly to space — blasted off on his six-month mission.

Half a world away in Dubai and elsewhere across the UAE, schools and offices planned to broadcast the launch live.

Also riding the Dragon capsule that’s due at the space station on Friday: NASA’s Stephen Bowen, a retired Navy submariner who logged three space shuttle flights, and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, a former research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and space newbie, and Andrei Fedyaev, a space rookie who’s retired from the Russian Air Force.

The first attempt to launch them was called off Monday at the last minute because of a clogged filter in the engine ignition system.

They will replace a US-Russian-Japanese crew that has been up there since October. The other station residents are two Russians and an American whose six-month stay was doubled, until September, after their Soyuz capsule sprang a leak. A replacement Soyuz arrived last weekend.

Al-Neyadi, a communications engineer, served as backup for the first Emirati astronaut, Hazzaa Al-Mansoori, who rode a Russian rocket to the space station in 2019 for a weeklong visit. The oil-rich federation paid for Al-Neyadi’s seat on the SpaceX flight.

The UAE’s minister for public education and advanced technology, Sarah Al-Amiri, said the long mission “provides us a new venue for science and scientific discovery for the country.”

“We don’t want to just go to space and then not have much to do there or not have impact,” said the director general of the UAE’s space center in Dubai, Salem Al-Marri.

The Emirates already have a spacecraft orbiting Mars, and a mini rover is hitching a ride to the moon on a Japanese lander. Two new UAE astronauts are training with NASA’s latest astronaut picks in Houston.

Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman was the first Arab in space, launching aboard shuttle Discovery in 1985. He was followed two years later by Syrian astronaut Muhammed Faris, launched by Russia. Both were in space for about a week.

Al-Neyadi will be joined this spring by two Saudi astronauts going to the space station on a short private SpaceX flight paid by their government.

“It’s going to be really exciting, really interesting” to have three Arabs in space at once, he said last week. “Our region is also thirsty to learn more.”

He’s taking up lots of dates to share with his crewmates, especially during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month which begins this month. As for observing Ramadan in orbit, he said fasting isn’t compulsory since it could make him weak and jeopardize his mission.

Source: Arab News

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Why West Bank violence between Israelis and Palestinians rages on despite US mediation


March 01, 2023

AMMAN: Persistent clashes in the West Bank between Palestinians and Israeli settlers have forced the international community to intervene. But talks in Jordan between senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials appear to have done little to ease tensions or halt hostilities.

During a summit in Jordan’s resort town of Aqaba on Sunday, Israeli and the Palestinian officials pledged in a joint statement to work together to prevent further outbreaks. Both sides “reaffirmed the need to commit to de-escalation on the ground and to prevent further violence.”

However, a fresh wave of clashes appears to have shattered any slim hope of progress almost immediately.

Two Israelis who lived in a West Bank settlement near Nablus were killed on Sunday, sparking revenge attacks in which a Palestinian man was killed, dozens of vehicles and buildings were torched, and more than 300 people were injured.

The rampage by settlers in the Palestinian town of Huwara came just days after Israeli forces launched their deadliest West Bank raid in nearly 20 years, which left 11 Palestinians dead in Nablus. On Monday, an Israeli, who was also a US citizen, was killed in the West Bank city of Jericho.

Many analysts believe Brett McGurk, the US National Security Council’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator, who is tasked with trying to prevent any further escalation of hostilities and facilitating wider engagement with the talks in Aqaba, has been handed an impossible mission.

Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center Washington D.C., believes the summit stood little chance of success from the outset.

“It was rushed by the US administration, essentially to rescue Israel from its own foolish policies, without adequate preparation or groundwork,” he told Arab News.

“Indeed, I considered the conference as both ill-conceived and ill-timed, considering recent political and military decisions by the Benjamin Netanyahu government, particularly its violent raids in Jenin, Nablus, and other occupied Palestinian towns.

“Once the joint (Israeli-Palestinian) communique was issued on Feb. 26, I thought its fanciful words would not last till the upcoming follow-up session in mid-March. Aqaba was another wasted diplomatic effort, as long as the 55-year-old Israeli occupation of Palestine continues unimpeded, with direct or indirect US support.”

Jahshan believes McGurk was presented with an insurmountable task.

“How could he defuse the tensions between Israel and Palestine that his colleagues (National Security Adviser Jake) Sullivan, (CIA Director Bill) Burns, and (Secretary of State Antony) Blinken failed to secure from the Netanyahu government?” he said.

McGurk came to the talks armed with a security plan. But experts said the region needs more than just security.

Oraib Rantawi, director of Al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Amman, said a conditional, short-term ceasefire might be possible if Israeli authorities agree to put settlement building on hold, halt raids on Palestinian towns, and hold settlers to account for their actions.

“But in terms of middle and long-term solutions, such de-escalation will fail unless there is a serious political process that can provide a political horizon for Palestinians,” he told Arab News.

Rantawi believes only the US can orchestrate a conditional ceasefire and push ahead with efforts to establish such a political path.

“Otherwise, the efforts of McGurk and any other US official are futile,” he said.

Ori Nir, vice president of the Americans for Peace Now organization in Washington, told Arab News that three things are necessary to reduce the violence: “An Israeli government willing to confront the settlers and restrain its military actions in the West Bank; a capable, credible Palestinian government and security forces; and a US government willing to proactively enforce the Aqaba understandings.

“None of these seem to be present. Therefore the prospects of success for McGurk’s mission are grim.”

The West Bank is home to about 2.9 million Palestinians, along with an estimated 475,000 Jewish settlers who live in state-approved settlements considered illegal under international law. Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 war.

The settlers have been emboldened by Netanyahu’s return to power at the head of a coalition that includes ultra-Orthodox and extreme-right-wing parties.

Botrus Mansour, a lawyer and expert in Israeli politics from Nazareth, believes the worsening security situation is a result of inexperienced radicals who have suddenly found themselves in power.

“Before the swearing-in of this government, things were relatively quiet,” he said. “The current radical ministers were in opposition, always attacking the government for not doing enough.

“And now that they are in government, now that they are in power, they have proven to be failures and their inexperience has been exposed.”

Johnny Mansour, a political science professor in Haifa, told Arab News a lot of work is needed to restore a state of relative stability.

“What is needed for quiet to return is a decision for a total cessation of both Israelis’ aggressive actions on the ground, and the verbal violence spoken by radical Israeli ministers,” he said.

“What is needed is to give people hope but this is far away now. Palestinians are not only under occupation, they are being humiliated so they have little to lose by revolting.”

Hani Masri, director of the Masarat think tank in Ramallah, believes the key to reducing violence lies in halting all settlement-expansion activity, changing the status quo in Al-Aqsa, stopping punitive demolitions of Palestinian houses, and preventing the creeping annexation of Palestinian land.

“We know that this will be rejected by Israel, and therefore there is no escaping a confrontation with this Kahanist (Zionist extremist) government that is seeking to annex, Judaize, and force people out,” he told Arab News.

Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and a fellow of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Arab News that much of the violence is driven by Israeli authorities and their raids on Palestinian towns and refugee camps.

“For the current violence to decrease, the Israelis need to believe that there are costly repercussions,” she said.

“The US has many policy tools it could deploy. It has to make Israel believe it will use them. Instead, the Biden administration has done the opposite. Even a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements is fought by the US, tooth and nail.”

The endless cycle of violence has also undermined the Palestinian Authority. The activities of armed Palestinian groups have increased in recent months due, in part, to the security vacuum left by the government in Ramallah, which has chosen not to crack down on the revolt and, lately, refuses to coordinate on security issues with Israeli authorities.

Johnny Mansour believes the security summit in Aqaba was an attempt to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to rein in militant factions.

“The Americans and the Israelis have tried, with Arab cover, to restrict the popular protests during the upcoming month of Ramadan, and what is even more important for Israel is the need for calm during the Passover holidays, which happen at the end of the holy month of Ramadan,” he said.

Some analysts point out that there are many tools other than violent resistance that the Palestinians could utilize to strengthen their position, especially in terms of engagement with the international community.

Mohammad Zahaika, a political activist in the Sawahreh neighborhood of East Jerusalem, supports a nonviolent response.

“What is needed is a popular, nonviolent protest that can lead up to civil disobedience,” he told Arab News. “People here in East Jerusalem realize that they need to find ways to neutralize the powerful Israeli war machine and widen the gulf that is already going on in Israel.”

He believes Ramadan, which will begin toward the end of March, could be the perfect time for popular protests that might challenge right-wing Israelis who, he says, have no interest in a peaceful resolution. He concedes, however, that much of the Palestinian public supports a strategy of armed resistance.

“What we need is for external forces to be involved and even to provide protection and intervention to the Palestinian population. Only this way can the extremists be deterred,” Zahaika added.

Rifaat Kassis, an elected member of the city council in Beit Sahour, agrees that Ramadan would be a good opportunity to promote unity.

“The Palestinian Authority is in a difficult situation, whether things escalate or calm down,” he told Arab News. “What is needed is for a popular movement to be launched that attempts to unify Palestinians. This is a golden opportunity to unite all groups of Palestinians.”

Jamal Dajani, a former head of communications in the Palestinian prime minister’s office, believes outside help could guarantee security.

“Palestinians in the West Bank need international protection against attacks by Israeli colonial settlers, aided and abetted by the Israeli occupation army,” he told Arab News.

He said the Palestinian Authority has failed to protect its people and so the only solution is to deploy UN forces, or other external troops, to provide that protection.

“If not, more pogroms will be committed and Palestinians will be forced to defend themselves, regardless of their affiliation, or no affiliation,” Dajani added.

The actions of Israeli authorities show they are intent on reshaping the West Bank and destroying the possibility of a viable Palestinian state, and with it any hope of lasting peace through a two-state solution, he said.

“Security discussions are about providing security to Israeli settlers and not to Palestinians,” he added.

Anees Sweidan, director of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s public relations department, said the escalation of violence represents the beginning of a new intifada, heralding a repeat of the violent uprisings of 1987 to 1993 and 2000 to 2005.

“The crimes of the Israeli army and the settlers are increasing at a high speed and this cannot be stopped by a security understanding,” he told Arab News.

“What is needed is a serious political process based on the two-state solution. Otherwise everything taking place is nothing more than sedation needles. I do not expect that to happen and therefore I do not see any major changes taking place.”

Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and an adviser to Republican and Democratic administrations in the US, would like to see a political process established to resolve the conflict but is similarly doubtful there is much chance of that happening.

“Without a political horizon, there is no long-term pathway to end the violence,” he told Arab News. “Short of a major effort to define a political horizon, with mutually reinforcing actions taken by each side to set the stage for negotiations on an end state, there is no way to end the violence.

“There is no way, right now, that the current Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority could agree on this package — and it is almost certain Hamas would not.”

Source: Arab News

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UAE space mission launch is scheduled for March 2 after February scratch

Darren Lyn  


HOUSTON, United States

NASA and SpaceX are planning to launch the Arab world's first long-term space mission Thursday after it was scratched last month.

The new launch was announced Wednesday for a March 2 takeoff shortly after midnight at 12:34 EST at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Crew-6 mission will blast off using the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft.

The crew includes Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and Russian Andrey Fedyaev in addition to NASA's Warren Hoburg and Stephen Bowen and they will conduct 19 experiments aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for six months.

The Feb. 27 launch was scratched "to review an unusual data signature related to the ignition fluid," according to NASA officials.

"After a thorough review of the data and ground system, both NASA and SpaceX teams identified a clogged filter on the ground as the cause," NASA said in a statement.

"SpaceX teams replaced the filter ... and verified the lines are clean and ready for the next launch attempt early Thursday morning."

This is the sixth crew rotation mission using the SpaceX Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket to travel to the ISS as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US funded ‘Iran war plan’ in support of Israel’s anti-Iran saber-rattling: Report

01 March 2023

The US military allocated funds for secret contingency operations related to a plan for war against Iran, according to a damning new report citing classified Pentagon documents.

An investigative report published by the Intercept on Wednesday noted that the plan - codenamed "Support Sentry" - was exposed after The Intercept, an American non-profit news organization, reviewed a classified Pentagon budget manual listing emergency and special programs.

According to the manual, which was produced for the 2019 fiscal year, the so-called Support Sentry plan was funded in 2018 and 2019, the report further read.

The document further classified Support Sentry as an Iran “CONPLAN,” or concept plan, a broad contingency plan for a war that the US Department of Defense develops in anticipation of a potential crisis.

“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on numbered plans. Iran remains the leading source of instability in the region and is a threat to the United States and our partners. We are constantly monitoring threat streams in coordination with our regional partners and will not hesitate to defend US national interests in the region,” said Maj. John Moore, a spokesperson for US Central Command, or CENTCOM, when asked about Support Sentry and whether it is still in place.

Such a program, the report noted, is just one example of the Pentagon's increasing comfort with, and support for Israel's aggressive stance toward Iran.

Last month, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides encouragingly said that “Israel can and should do whatever they need to deal with [Iran] and we’ve got their back.”

The report went on to say that due to the collapse of diplomacy with Iran despite Washington's attempts under former American president Donald Trump, the Pentagon quietly moved Israel into its Central Command area of responsibility, officially grouping it with the main Arab countries of the Middle East, adding that the reshuffling has remained under President Joe Biden.

What Trump did through the so-called Abraham Accords - normalizing ties between Israel and the two Persian Gulf Arab states of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - was in fact aimed at aligning these countries against a common enemy: Iran, rather than peace deals, as they are touted, it said.

Furthermore, the report added, the US and Israel have embarked upon conducting a growing number of joint military drills in recent months that Israeli leaders say are designed to test potential attack plans with Iran.

Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow for defense programs at the Heritage Foundation and retired US military planner who served as a strategist for the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, told The Intercept that contingency plans, such as Support Sentry, provide “the general outline - the overarching ‘concept’- of a plan to take some major action against an enemy.”

In other words, the mere existence of contingency plans like Support Sentry suggests that the US military takes the possibility of a war with Iran seriously enough to prepare a strategic framework for it. Moreover, CONPLANs also lead to consequences short of war, like military exercises.

“CONPLANs serve as the intellectual framework or context when developing military exercises because it makes sense for units that are honing their skills to have that work be relevant to likely tasks,” Wood further noted.

In 2018, Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of Iran's nuclear deal - technically known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -  and launched his plan of "maximum pressure" on Tehran by reinstating previous sanctions and imposing fresh ones.

On January 16, 2021, just four days before Biden’s inauguration, Trump ordered the military to reassign Israel to CENTCOM, its Middle East combatant command, aiming to force the Biden administration to abandon diplomacy and adopt the framework of his so-called “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.

This is while the US military, historically, has rather counter-intuitively kept Israel under its European Command, or EUCOM, in order to avoid tensions with Persian Gulf Arab allies like Saudi Arabia, the report said.

“Tasking CENTCOM to serve as the primary U.S. defense coordinator with Israel instead of EUCOM would acknowledge the new political reality of the Middle East under the Abraham Accords. Our bill requires a study of the potential transition, which could increase US-Israel military cooperation with regional partners and help better secure the Middle East against threats like Iran,” Sen. Tom Cotton said in a press release in December 2020, days before Trump ordered the military to reassign Israel to CENTCOM.

Since Biden came to power, US-Israel military cooperation rapidly expanded to encompass unprecedented joint naval exercises, so much so that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also remarked in April last year that “those exercises would have been unimaginable, unthinkable, just a few years ago.”

Back in January, the US and Israel conducted their largest joint military exercise in history, codenamed Juniper Oak. Some 6,400 American and 1,500 Israeli troops participated in the training exercise, involving more than 140 aircraft, an aircraft carrier, and live fire exercises with over 180,000 pounds of live munitions.

"Notably, Juniper Oak involved exercises in which American aircraft provided mid-air refueling services to Israeli fighter aircraft - a key capability Israel lacks and without which its aircraft cannot reach Iranian targets - and drills involving American B-52 bombers dropping bunker-buster bombs on targets designed to resemble Iranian nuclear sites," the report added.

In its most recent National Security Strategy, the high-level planning document detailing nuclear threats and how to respond to them, dated October 2022, the White House also hinted at the military option.

Source: Press TV

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Southeast Asia

Ipsos poll: Over one in two Malaysians say ‘live and let live’ on transgender persons

By Zarrah Morden

02 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — Over half of Malaysian respondents agreed that transgender individuals should be able to live their lives as they wished and without interference, according to a study by market research firm Ipsos.

In the report of the 2023 edition of its Global Trends survey released this week, Ipsos said 54 per cent of Malaysian respondents agreed with the statement versus 40 per cent who were against it.

“While it is tempting to think that it is the youngest members of society who care the most about people being able to define their own identity, these beliefs are actually fairly consistent across the age groups,” it noted.

In Muslim-majority Malaysia, conservatives view the rights of transgender persons along with others in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to be part of liberalism, an ideology they treat as immoral or incompatible with the country’s norms.

Regardless of the coalition in power, Malaysian authorities typically take a harsh stance against LGBT elements that attract attention within their spheres of power.

Under state shariah laws, Muslim trans women are usually targeted using offences outlawing “men dressing or acting like women”.

Earlier this month, national news agency Bernama reported that the Ministry of Home Affairs banned three publications deemed harmful to Malaysian morals including two that contained LGBT elements.

Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s government to step up legal reforms to protect minority communities better, including LGBT persons.

At the local launch of HRW’s World Report 2023, which records country-specific human rights abuses from last year, the international watchdog’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said the Malaysian government should stop abuses against the LGBT community.

Source: Malay Mail

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Malaysia vows to continue peace efforts in southern Philippines

Mara Cepeda

MAR 1, 2023

MANILA – Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim vowed on Wednesday in Manila to continue efforts to help facilitate the peace process in the Muslim-dominated Philippine island of Mindanao.

The Malaysian leader, who arrived on Wednesday morning, is the first head of government to visit the Philippines since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr took office in June 2022.

Datuk Seri Anwar said Mr Marcos has made “great strides” in advancing the peace process in Mindanao in southern Philippines – an area that has long been plagued by poverty and separatist violence.

He said its success would provide “enormous potential” to benefit Filipinos and Malaysians alike. 

“I think it’s only our duty as a good neighbour to support and facilitate the peace process, and I stand by whatever things need to be done at the bilateral, multilateral level to support this endeavour,” Mr Anwar said.

From 2001 to 2012, Malaysia served as a mediator in the negotiations between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The talks eventually culminated in the formation of the Bangsamoro autonomous region in 2019.

Mr Anwar, who became prime minister in November 2022, said Malaysia will continue aiding the people of the self-ruled Bangsamoro region through various capacity-building projects. These include the Malaysia Technical Cooperation Programme, which allows the country to share its development experiences and expertise with developing nations like the Philippines.

Mr Marcos thanked Malaysia for its “great contribution” in the peace process in southern Philippines.

“We hope that this support that they have shown over the past few years will continue to contribute to the success of the peace process and establishment of the Bangsamoro autonomous region,” he added.

During their bilateral meeting, both leaders agreed to pursue joint initiatives to combat transnational crime and terrorism.

“Our defence and security ties are also strong and growing. We share common borders that are, to an extent, quite porous. Therefore, the collaboration needs to be further enhanced,” Mr Anwar said.

The two leaders also plan to revive trade and investment cooperation, particularly in the areas of the halal industry, agriculture and food security, and the digital economy.

They also discussed regional security issues, including Myanmar’s military leadership and South China Sea disputes.

Mr Anwar said he appreciated Mr Marcos’ support for Asean’s five-point peace plan that Myanmar’s junta had agreed to, but added that alternative ways must be forged to persuade the military leadership to work with Asean in achieving peace.

On the issue of the South China Sea, both Mr Anwar and Mr Marcos agreed that all claimant territories in Asean must take a multilateral approach to achieve a peaceful resolution to the maritime dispute.

Malaysia and the Philippines are among the South-east Asian nations that are contesting Beijing’s claim over territories in the South China Sea.

Before flying home on Thursday, Mr Anwar will receive an honorary law degree from the state-run University of the Philippines, where he is scheduled to deliver a public lecture on Asean geopolitics.

Source: Straits Times

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Guan Eng: There are more Muslim MPs in unity govt than PN

By R. Loheswar

01 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 1 — DAP’s Lim Guan Eng has chastised PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang for saying there are fewer Muslims in the unity government than previous governments.

The MP for Bagan questioned Hadi's statement when he said that 98 per cent of the turnout during the 15th general elections were non-Muslims while only 68 per cent of voters were Muslims.

“This is false. The actual overall turnout for the election was 74 per cent. Researcher Bridget Welsh had contradicted Hadi by stating that Malays had the best voter turnout amongst all races at 79 per cent.

“Out of the 148 MPs supporting the unity government, more than half or 77 are Muslim MPs, dispelling the false narrative that the unity government is dominated by non-Muslim MPs,” Lim said.

Two weeks ago, Hadi decried that the unity government consisted of more non-Muslims than Muslims. In a Facebook post, he said there are 50 non-Muslims and 31 Muslims MPs.

He said calling it a unity government was misleading.

Hadi said the unity government does not have an opposition or the opposition is too small like a mosquito.

Lim, however, rebuked this statement by stating that the 77 Muslim MPs in the unity government contrast with the 72 out of 74 Perikatan Nasional (PN) MPs who are Muslims.

“In other words, there are more Muslim MPs in the unity government than the opposition PN. And yet, Hadi continues with falsehoods to project extremist sentiments to corral the Muslim votes without any regard whatsoever for non-Muslims in Malaysia.

“Malaysia belongs to all citizens, including non-Muslims. For Hadi to continue to exclude non-Muslims is not only wrong but also opposed to the royal command of the King to respect diversity and tolerance in our multi-racial society,” he added.

Source: Malay Mail

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TikTok Malaysia says political advertisements are banned amid claims of biased platform moderator

01 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: TikTok Malaysia clarified on Wednesday (Mar 1) that political advertisements are banned on the popular video-sharing platform.

In a statement, TikTok Malaysia’s head of public policy Hafizin Tajudin said: “At TikTok, we aim to provide community members with a diverse range of relevant and entertaining content.

“To achieve this, we do promote a small fraction of videos to help diversify the content experience and introduce celebrities and emerging creators to the TikTok community.

“However, we do not allow political ads on the platform, which is further strengthened through the changes in the policies for government, politician and political party accounts (GPPPA) that was made last year.”

He reiterated that TikTok does not allow paid advertisements that “promote or oppose a candidate, government, current leader, political party or group, or issue at the federal, state, or local level”.

The statement was issued after a viral video claimed that a Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) member was also part of the TikTok moderation team. The video noted that moderators could determine what content would go viral.

Malaysian Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil reportedly said at the sidelines of an event on Tuesday that he has been in touch with TikTok regarding the allegations in the video. 

He noted that people have made assumptions that “the 4,000 TikTok moderators are biased towards one political party”.

"I've been in touch with TikTok as these are serious allegations and if true, this means some people have managed to infiltrate the company.

"We'll need to do some due diligence and also we don't want people to think they've been oppressed and spreading this misinformation is wrong too," he was quoted as saying by MalayMail.

Opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition’s strong showing in the 15th general election when they won 74 seats has been attributed to its astute TikTok campaign strategy. PAS is a component party of PN. 

Mr Hafizin of TikTok said that while the former employee mentioned in the video served as a content moderator, such moderators do not have any authority or access to any forms of promotional tools for content.

“We have a robust quality assurance system in place to ensure that the political or personal opinions of our employees do not affect their work quality and ethics, including when performing content moderation tasks.

“TikTok's content moderation decisions are based on a set of clearly defined Community Guidelines and have layers of checks and balances including quality assurance and third-party fact-checkers, to uphold safety and ensure fairness in moderation,” he said.

On Tuesday, it was reported that the European Parliament banned TikTok from being installed on staff phones, amid unease over how the app owned by Chinese firm ByteDance was harvesting user data.

Following the ban, Mr Fahmi, the minister, was quoted as saying by Malay Mail that Cybersecurity Malaysia has been asked to investigate the matter.

"They've been tasked with checking the allegations made by the EU as well as what they were suspicious of. If there is any matter that arises that we need to consider since this involves personal and sensitive data, we will take the necessary steps," he added.

Source: Channel News Asia

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Asean can’t stay silent over developments affecting region, says PM

02 Mar 2023

MANILA: Decision-making by consensus continues to be the central tenet of Asean, but it does not mean the regional grouping should remain silent over developments in member states that affect the wider region, says Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

He said criticisms against Asean particularly focus on two of its principles – decision-making by consensus and non-interference.

“Today, decision-making by consensus continues to be a central tenet of Asean. This, however, does not mean that Asean should remain silent over developments in member states that affect the wider region, or particularly egregious violations of the Asean Charter by its own members.

“In all honesty, I believe that non-interference is not a licence for indifference,” he said in a talk titled “30 Years After The Asian Renaissance: Strategic Takeaways for Asean” at the University of the Philippines today.

Earlier, Anwar was conferred an honorary doctorate by the university.

According to a statement by the university, Anwar was awarded the doctorate for being a scholar and an internationally acclaimed expert on economics, democracy, freedom, governance, Islam and the need for accountability.

Anwar arrived in the Philippines yesterday for a two-day official visit, the fifth Asean country he has been to since being appointed as the 10th prime minister in November.

On the need to temporarily carve out Myanmar on account of its human rights violations, Anwar stressed that it was imperative to stay true to one of the key ideals of Asean – standing for the cause of justice and the rule of law.

During his bilateral meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr at Malacanang Palace yesterday, Anwar had expressed concern about the unresolved Myanmar issue, which was adversely affecting Malaysia because of the huge number of its refugees, which had exceeded 200,000.

“The (Philippine) president, in his wisdom, has reiterated the need for the five-point consensus, but I would suggest exploring new areas on how the junta can be persuaded to work and collaborate as a team within Asean and resolve the outstanding issue, which cannot be considered as purely internal because it is affecting the security and welfare of the region,” he said at a joint press briefing with Marcos Jr.

Anwar also called on Asean member countries to stand as cooperative partners working towards the betterment of its people in a just and peaceful world.

He congratulated the Philippines and the Filipino people for the courage of their convictions in the cause of democracy.

“You have demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are able to confront arrogant powers and show to us, in Asean and beyond, that defeat in times of trouble is not an option.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Houthis pocket millions of dollars of public funds say UN experts


March 01, 2023

AL-MUKALLA: Houthi leaders’ families have amassed vast fortunes by diverting billions of Yemeni riyals from oil, taxes, and other levies into their own wallets and also profiting from the creation of oil black markets, the UN Panel of Experts has said.

This finding by UN experts has validated Yemeni activists’ and authorities’ long-held suspicions that militia members are using the conflict their own benefit.

Covering the period from early December 2021 to Nov. 30, 2022, the UN experts stated in their annual report to the UN Security Council that from the start of the UN-brokered truce on April 2 to Nov. 30, 69 tankers delivered 1,810,498 tons of oil derivatives to the Houthi-controlled Hodeidah port, generating 271.935 billion Yemeni rials (approximately $271 million) for the Houthis.

Instead of utilizing the earnings to pay public workers in regions under their control, as the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement requires, the Houthis used the money to line their own pockets and finance military activities.

“Under the Stockholm Agreement, the Houthis were to collect customs duties on the import of oil through the port of Hodeidah on the condition that they would pay public service salaries. However, the panel was informed that no salaries had been paid at the time of writing,” the panel said.

In addition to other sources of revenue such as taxes on mobile and landline services, oil, banks, hospitals, pharmacies, and zakat, which is estimated at 45 billion Yemeni riyals per year, the Houthis have imposed a new levy known as a khums (one-fifth) tax on mineral, water, and fishing industries and other economic activities, with all proceeds going to Houthi families and other allied leaders, the 194-page report said.

“Real estate is another sector that generates significant revenues for the Houthis, who forcibly confiscated large swathes of land and buildings during the reporting period. The Houthis are also using various telecommunications companies to send millions of messages soliciting support and financial contributions for their war efforts,” it added.

The UN experts discovered that the Houthis engaged in drug smuggling and trade in order to fund their military activities, and the Saudi authorities told them that they had intercepted several shipments of narcotic substances originating from the Houthis in Yemen.

“During its visit to Riyadh, the panel was informed of several seizures by the Saudi authorities, especially at Wadi’ah, Khadra’, Ulab, Tuwal and Jazan Port. The Saudi authorities stated that the trafficking and smuggling of the consignments were being aided and abetted by the Houthis to generate funds for their war activities.”

UN experts have identified the Iran-backed Houthis as the primary abusers of human rights in Yemen due to their indiscriminate attacks on civilian gatherings and infrastructure, arbitrary abductions, torture, and forced disappearances.

For a second year in a row, UN experts have accused the Houthis of breaking their pledge to the UN to stop recruiting children into their military, adding that Houthi community services coerced children, mostly those aged 13 to 17, to join their summer camps and recruitment and training facilities through financial inducements or intimidation.

“The Houthis continued their campaign of indoctrinating children and of recruiting and using them in their forces, including as combatants, contrary to their legal obligations and the action plan signed with the UN in April 2022 to prevent and end recruitment and other grave violations against children.”

The UN found evidence that Iran continued to ship weapons, including ballistic missile components, to the Houthis after examining seized weapons shipments on land or at sea in Yemen.

UN experts also identified Mohammed Halas Mohammed Bishara as the leader of the Houthi maritime smuggling organization.

They were granted access to components of Quds ballistic missiles and drones captured by the UK navy in the Gulf of Oman in January 2023 aboard two stateless vessels moving from Iranian beaches into Oman.

“The seizure of Quds components by the British Royal Navy supports the panel’s assessment that the missiles continue to be smuggled in parts from abroad and that final assembly takes place in Houthi-controlled areas,” said the report.

Yemeni authorities also permitted UN experts to inspect a shipment of 52 launch containers containing 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missiles that had been concealed inside four huge power generators and confiscated at the country’s Shahn border crossing with Oman.

Source: Arab News

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Israel cracks down on rampaging settlers but Palestinians say it is ‘not enough’


March 01, 2023

RAMALLAH: Israeli police finally arrested 10 people on Wednesday in connection with a deadly rampage by settlers through a Palestinian town in the occupied West Bank.

The arrests came after three days of inaction following Monday’s incident in Hawara, when one Palestinian died as hundreds of settlers torched cars and homes, and amid unprecedented criticism by the senior Israeli military chief in the area.

Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, head of the Israeli army’s Central Command, said his forces had prepared for the possibility of a settler attack but had been surprised by the intensity of the violence.

Fuchs said the rampage was a “shameful” incident carried out by lawbreakers who “acted not according to the values I grew up with or the values of the state of Israel, and not according to the values of Judaism.”

“The incident in Hawara was a pogrom carried out by outlaws,” he said. “We were not prepared for a pogrom of this magnitude, with many dozens of people.”

Pogrom is a word that describes an organized act of mass violence targeting a particular ethnic or religious group. The term had been used to refer to ethnic mob attacks against Jews in eastern Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Fuchs said: “We are currently in a period without security coordination with the Palestinian Authority. We will see what happens in the coming days.”

Shops in Hawara remained closed on Wednesday, by order of the army, amid a heavy Israeli military presence.

On a visit to the town, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said the arrests were not enough. “We see an organized crime perpetrated by the Israeli government and carried out by the settlers,” he said.

Hawara’s mayor, Mueen Al-Dumaidi, told Arab News that Shtayyeh had visited to take stock of the situation and assess the damage. People who lost property in the settler attacks are demanding compensation from the Palestinian Authority, including new homes. Shtayyeh has formed a committee to assess the losses and promised the government would help people to the full extent of its capabilities.

“There are 52 families whose homes were completely burned down, 40 cars were torched, in addition to the destruction of the municipality’s property, two trucks and a bulldozer,” Al-Dumaidi said.

He said the Israeli army had divided the town into five security zones and banned residents from moving between them. Troops were deployed on rooftops along the main street to prevent clashes between Palestinians and settlers.

People were gripped by fear and panic, Al-Dumaidi said, and settlers had tried to attack a house on Wednesday. “Now, after the world has condemned the Israeli army’s failure to prevent settlers from attacking the Palestinians, the Israelis admit their mistake,” he said.

He described the situation in Huwara as “terrible,” saying the Israeli army has divided it into five security zones and forbidden residents from moving between them. Troops are deployed on rooftops along the main street through the town to prevent any friction or clashes between residents and settlers.

Palestinians have formed protection committees in Huwara who stay awake all night to protect homes and town property from further attacks. Al-Dumaidi said the job of committee members is to warn residents of any attack, not to engage in a fight.

Meanwhile, Palestinian and Israeli sources have expressed fears that violence will again flare in the West Bank before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, which begins in about three weeks.

Amer Hamdan, a human rights activist from Nablus, told Arab News that he has noticed an apparent change in the behavior of the Israeli army toward Palestinians since the new right-wing Israeli government came to power in late December. The soldiers, he said, tolerate attacks by settlers against the Palestinians.

“If the army had the intention to act, it would move quickly and deal firmly with the settlers before they could carry out their arson attacks,” he added.

Hamdan said he has avoided traveling to Ramallah since the latest settler attacks for fear of being targeted by settlers, or soldiers at the military checkpoints that are dotted along the road.

“I do not want to be the next martyr,” he added.

In another development, Israeli forces raided the Humsa Bedouin community in Tubas Governorate in the northern Jordan Valley and demolished homes, according to Moataz Bisharat, who is in charge of the area.

Hussein Al-Shaikh, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee chief, said draft legislation on the death penalty for Palestinian prisoners found guilty of terrorism, which is passing through the Israeli Knesset, reflects an approach steeped in “racism and colonial thought.” The government-backed law passed its preliminary reading in the Israeli parliament on Wednesday.

Al-Shaikh said the party that should be tried for its crimes is the occupation, not the people suffering under the occupiers and their oppression.

Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s ultranationalist Jewish Power faction has promoted the death sentence bill as a means of deterring would-be Palestinian attackers after a more than year-long surge in violence that shows no signs of abating.

Critics say the death penalty is immoral, antithetical to Jewish principles, and will not serve as a deterrent.

The proposed law would allow the death penalty for a person who killed an Israeli “as an act motivated by racism or hostility toward the public” and “with the aim of harming the state of Israel and the revival of the Jewish people in its land.”

Limor Son Har-Melech, the ultranationalist settler lawmaker proposing the bill, told Kan public radio that “it is just and most moral that someone who murders Jews, and just because they’re Jews” is sentenced to death.

Source: Arab News

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Palestinian man succumbs to wounds sustained in Israeli raid on West Bank camp

02 March 2023

A young Palestinian man has succumbed to the wounds he suffered during a raid by Israeli forces on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Jericho.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that 22-year-old Mahmoud Jamal Hamdan died of his serious injuries on Wednesday night after being shot by Israeli troops during a raid on Aqabat Jabr camp, located southwest of Jericho in the Jordan valley, Palestine’s official Wafa news agency reported.

On Wednesday, Israeli troops stormed the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp, following a shooting attack on a highway outside Jericho that left one Israeli soldier dead.

During the raid, the regime’s forces sealed off the camp and prevented ambulances and journalists from entering it. They also fatally wounded Hamdan, whom they accused of being involved in the attack.

Hamdan was arrested along with five others from one family including four brothers in their 50s and 40s and the son of one of them.

Hamdan’s death took the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers since the beginning of the year to 67.

Israeli forces occasionally break into Jericho, mainly the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp, and conduct searches.

Last month, they raided the camp and injured at least 13 Palestinians. The occupying regime’s forces also arrested three Palestinian young men during the attack, which took place on February 4.

The raid came almost a week after Israeli forces imposed a tight siege on Jericho after a resistance fighter opened fire at a nearby settler restaurant.

Israeli forces launch raids on various cities of the occupied West Bank almost on a daily basis under the pretext of detaining what the regime calls “wanted” Palestinians. The raids usually lead to violent confrontations with residents.

Source: Press TV

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Israeli regime's death penalty bill incurs Hamas outrage

02 March 2023

Hamas expresses outrage over the Israeli regime's approval of a draft bill that, if signed into law, would authorize the execution of the Palestinian detainees, who perform anti-occupation operations.

The Palestinian resistance movement issued the reaction in a statement on Wednesday after Knesset (the Israeli regime's parliament) approved the draft -- which has been proposed by far-right Israeli minister Itamar Ben-Gvir -- in a preliminary reading.

The group denounced attempts at the legislation of the executions as the Israeli regime's bid to legalize its systematic killings of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Information Center news agency reported, citing a Hamas statement.

"Such racist and criminal move reflects the Israeli occupation government's fascist tendencies," the group said, according to the agency.

"It represents an extension of the summary executions [that are] carried out by the Israeli occupation army in cold blood under the nose of the whole world," it said, reminding that the international law criminalizes killing on discriminatory and racist bases.

Hamas vowed that such policies would not deter the Palestinian people from exercising their right to resistance against the occupying regime and its illegal settlers.

The Israeli regime's forces and settlers have escalated their deadly acts of aggression against the Palestinians since late December 2022, when Benjamin Netanyahu staged a comeback as the regime's prime minister at the head of a cabinet of hard-right and extremist parties.

Also on Wednesday, Israeli forces attacked the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near the city of Jericho in the eastern part of the Tel Aviv-occupied West Bank, fatally wounding a man, whom the regime has accused of killing an Israeli-American motorist earlier.

Mahmoud Jamal Hassan Hamdan, 22, died from "serious wounds inflicted by bullets of the occupation" during the raid, the official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported, citing a statement by the Palestinian health ministry.

Hamdan's death took the number of the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers since the beginning of the year to 67, including four who were killed by Israeli settlers' gunfire, 13 children, four elderly people, and one prisoner.

Source: Press TV

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Palestinian children in Gaza explore world

01 March 2023

For most people in Gaza, it's just a dream to travel and explore the world outside the Israeli cruel blockade. The new generation has lived almost its whole life under the Israeli siege, learning about the world only through screens. The longstanding Israeli restriction on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza has undermined the living conditions of over 2 million Palestinian residents.

Al-Amal Institute for orphans in Gaza is an independent non-governmental organization that pursues to bring about positive change in the culture of the community and raise awareness about orphans and their needs in order to ensure a better life for them and their families.

In its current form, the Israeli blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip has been in place since June 2007, when Israel imposed a full-scale land, sea, and air blockade on the area. The siege contravenes Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits collective punishment that prevents the realization of a broad range of human rights. Families have been split, youths have been denied the opportunity to study and work outside Gaza, and many have been denied their right to receive basic healthcare. Three Gaza Children died in 2022 as a result of the Israeli occupation authorities' delays or refusal to grant them permits to exit Gaza for medical treatment.

Source: Press TV

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Top al-Qaeda figure killed in Yemen air strike: Sources

01 March ,2023

A senior al-Qaeda figure was killed in a suspected US air strike in war-torn Yemen, security and local government sources told AFP on Wednesday.

Hamad bin Hamoud al-Tamimi, a top leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which Washington regards as among the global extremist network’s most dangerous branches, died in the strike along with a bodyguard, a security official said, requesting anonymity.

The air strike, targeting a house in the northern province of Marib that al-Tamimi had recently rented, was “apparently American,” the official said.

A Marib government official, also speaking anonymously, confirmed the deaths.

Tamimi, also known as Abdel Aziz al-Adnani, headed up AQAP’s leadership council and acted as the militant group’s “judge,” the sources said.

The “president of the consultative council and judge, known as Abdel Aziz al-Adnani, was killed with a Yemeni bodyguard,” the Marib official said.

AQAP, and rival militants loyal to ISIS, have thrived in the chaos of Yemen’s civil war, which pits the Arab coalition-backed government against the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

AQAP has carried out operations against both the Houthis and government forces as well as sporadic attacks abroad.

Its leaders have been targeted by a US drone war for more than two decades, although the number of strikes has dropped off in recent years.

The attack comes a month after three alleged AQAP militants were killed in a suspected US drone strike on a car in Marib province.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict since 2015, when an Arab coalition intervened to back the government after the Houthis seized control of the capital Sanaa.

Source: Al Arabiya

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IDF official: 'Can’t promise there won’t be terror escalation during Ramadan'


MARCH 1, 2023

IDF Operations Commander Maj. Gen. Oded Bassiuk on Wednesday said that he cannot promise that Palestinian terrorism will not escalate leading into the Muslim month of Ramadan just over the horizon.

Speaking from the INSS conference, he said, “We are seeing murderous terrorism,” from Palestinians in the West Bank, with the IDF leading a “huge intelligence revolution to combat this and defend the area and on the border with actions to thwart” terrorism.

“This is our mission at all times. Most of what is happening with the Palestinians now are internal issues. There is a struggle about what will happen the day after,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dies.

He said that “our actions continue, sometimes we need to go to harsh places, but we do our work on this. Whatever the political echelon decides, we need to carry it out.”

Further, he stated, “we need to try to prevent greater escalations [of terror] during Ramadan, but I cannot promise this.”

On the positive side, he said, “look at what didn’t happen. There are no Tanzim forces there or other organized forces” from Hamas or other terror groups operating in any strength in the West Bank.

IDF's job is to protect Israel from all threats

Bassiuk also said that the IDF’s job is to protect Israel from all threats as diverse as “knives from Judea and Samaria to the [Iranian] nuclear threat.”

He added that “we are looking at a much shorter timeframe than in the past” regarding the potential of an Iranian nuclear threat.

In addition, the IDF operations chief said that there had been not one, as reported, but two recent Iranian attack incidents at sea, without specifying more details.

Source: J POST

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Spokesman: Iran Expels 2 German Diplomats Over Berlin's Interventionist Attitude


"The German diplomats were expelled following the interventionist and irresponsible moves of the German government regarding the internal and judicial affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran," the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said.

Kana'ani pointed out that the German envoy to Tehran has also been summoned to Iran's foreign ministry and has been informed of the decision.

He reiterated that the Islamic Republic of Iran will decisively respond to the excessive demands, and stressed that the priority of the Islamic Republic of Iran is always to maintain interaction in an atmosphere of respect, but if some parties want to ignore the fundamental standards and national sovereignty of Iran, defining alternative options are inevitable.

Following Tehran's measure of sentencing the ring leader of the Tondar terrorist group to death, Germany recently summoned two employees of the Iranian embassy and ordered them to leave the country.

The Justice Department of Tehran Province recently announced that Jamshid Sharmahd had been convicted of “corruption on earth” through directing terrorist activities and has been sentenced to death.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Erdogan says Turkey elections to be held on May 14

01 March ,2023

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated on Wednesday that elections will be held on May 14, sticking to his previous plan for the vote with a date just over three months after a devastating earthquake killed more than 45,000 people in Turkey.

“This nation will do what is necessary on May 14, God willing,” Erdogan said in a speech to lawmakers from his ruling AK Party in parliament.

There had been conflicting signals over the likely timing of the presidential and parliamentary elections since last month’s earthquake, with some suggesting they could be postponed until later in the year or could be held as scheduled on June 18.

Before the disaster, Erdogan’s popularity had been eroded by the soaring cost of living and a slump in the lira.

He has since faced a wave of criticism over his government’s response to the deadliest quake in the nation’s modern history.

Erdogan, aiming to extend his rule into a third decade, previously said he was bringing the votes forward to May to avoid holidays in June. Polls suggest they would present his biggest electoral challenge yet.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israeli protesters block highway as government presses on with judicial overhaul

01 March ,2023

Israeli protesters blocked the main highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Wednesday, as lawmakers were set to plough ahead with a contentious judicial overhaul that opponents see as a threat to democracy.

“Israel is not a dictatorship, Israel is not Hungary,” the protesters called, waving blue and white Israeli flags.

Demonstrations were expected to intensify nationwide in what protest organizers have dubbed a “day of disruption.” Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said he would not allow a “mutiny”, or “anarchists” to block roads.

The reform was proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition government in January. It includes giving the government decisive sway in picking judges and limits the scope of the Supreme Court to strike down legislation or rule against the executive.

Critics say that this would greatly weaken judicial independence, given Israel has no constitution and only one house of parliament that is controlled by the coalition.

In parliament on Wednesday, the Knesset’s Constitution, Justice and Law Committee was set to give initial approval to more proposals in the plan.

Warning the country was on the brink of “constitutional and social collapse,” President Isaac Herzog, whose role is largely ceremonial, is trying to formulate a compromise on the changes.

The plan has yet to be written into law, but it has already affected the Israeli shekel and drawn concern from some Western allies who have signaled concern about the democratic health of the country if the government goes through with the overhaul.

“Slow down a little a bit, maybe bring people together, try and build some consensus,” US Ambassador Tom Nides said at Tel Aviv University’s conference of the Institute for National Security Studies late on Tuesday.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Nigerian President-elect Tinubu appeals for unity after hotly contested elections

Olanrewaju Kola and Ibrahim Garba Shuaibu 



Nigeria's President-elect Bola Tinubu appealed for unity in the country on Wednesday after hotly contested elections that have been disputed by opposition parties.

In his acceptance speech after being declared the winner of the weekend election, Tinubu said the divisions that characterized the poll should not linger into the post-election period.

"There are divisions amongst us that should not exist. Many people are uncertain, angry and hurt. I reach out to every one of you. Let the better aspects of our humanity step forward at this fateful moment. Let us begin to heal and bring calm to our nation," he urged.

Analysts have warned that the elections fueled religious and ethnic divisions in Nigeria.

Tinubu, however, struck a conciliatory tone after his victory, stressing that it would serve every person in the West African country and vowing to work together opposition parties, some of which have disputed the election results.

A candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress party (APC), Tinubu garnered 8.7 million votes in the race held on Feb. 25-26, according to Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the country's electoral commission.

The main opposition People's Democratic Party's (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar, received 6.9 million votes, while Labor Party (LP) candidate Peter Obi got 6.1 million, according to the official count.

Eighteen candidates ran for presidential office in Africa's largest democracy and economy, which is also its most populous nation with around 206 million people.

Tinubu will succeed outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, whose administration has been marked by security threats and economic crunches.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Guinea to fly back citizens in Tunisia after outcry

01 March ,2023

The West African state of Guinea is repatriating dozens of its citizens from Tunisia, a senior official said Wednesday, after Tunisian President Kais Saied triggered a storm by accusing sub-Saharan migrants of crime.

The foreign ministry official told AFP that the ruling junta had leased an aircraft to bring about 50 Guineans in Tunisia who said they wanted to return home.

The information was confirmed by a senior official at the Conakry airport.

Hours earlier, the president’s office issued a statement saying that Foreign Minister Morissanda Kouyate was heading to Tunisia aboard a government aircraft “to provide urgent support for Guineans” there.

This is Guinea’s first repatriation flight since Saied ordered security forces to take “urgent measures” against “hordes” of sub-Saharan African migrants, accusing them without evidence of causing a wave of crime and plotting to change the country’s demographic make-up.

Many of the estimated 21,000 sub-Saharan African migrants in Tunisia -- most of whom are irregular -- have lost their jobs and housing overnight.

Others have been stopped by police, and some have reported physical attacks.

Dozens of migrants have flocked to their embassies, particularly those of Ivory Coast and Mali, asking to return home.

Several countries have announced repatriation flights for volunteer returnees.

Source: Al Arabiya

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UN slams deployment of South Sudan troops in disputed region

01 March ,2023

The United Nations on Wednesday condemned the deployment of South Sudanese troops in an area of the disputed region of Abyei, which both Sudan and South Sudan claim.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the contested region warned that the deployment of troops in the southern part of Abyei would create “untold suffering and humanitarian concerns” for civilians in the area.

There was no immediate comment from South Sudanese authorities, and a spokesman for the ruling military in Sudan did not answer a request for comment.

The deployment followed renewed fighting within and around Abyei, said the mission, known as UNISFA. It urged both parties to stop fighting and “allow the political process to resolve the lingering crisis.”

“UNISFA is against any form of unauthorized deployment” in Abyei, the mission said.

The mission statement did not elaborate on the fighting. Local media, however, reported that the latest clashes between Nuer and Dinka Ngok tribes in the region grew out of cattle rustling late last month.

Citing local authorities, Sudan Tribune news website said at least 18 people were killed and nine were wounded.

UNISFA said it has reinforced peacekeepers in the area and “is closely monitoring the situation.”

The dispute between Sudan and South Sudan over oil-rich Abyei began when South Sudan gained independence from Sudan following a 2005 peace deal, after decades of civil war between Sudan’s north and south.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Achraf Hakimi’s lawyer denies rape allegations, says ‘accusations are false’

01 March ,2023

A lawyer representing Moroccan football player Achraf Hakimi denied rape allegations made against the Paris Saint-Germain defender, news website GOAL reported on Wednesday.

Hakimi is being investigated for the alleged rape of a 23-year-old woman whom he reportedly invited to his home in France while his wife and children were away on vacation, French news outlet Le Parisien reported earlier this week.

The footballer’s lawyer, Fanny Colin, said in a statement to Le Parisien on Tuesday that Hakimi was innocent.

“The accusations are false… and he is at the disposal of justice,” Colin said.

Colin’s statements represent the first public reaction as PSG has not yet commented on the accusations.

The alleged victim went to the police this weekend and accused Hakimi of raping her despite her not consenting to intercourse.

Police opened an investigation into the matter even though she told them that she only wanted to “make a statement of rape,” without filing an official complaint.

Hakimi is a well-known footballer who played a crucial role in his national team’s historic run to the semifinals of the Qatar World Cup last year.

The 24-year-old player is married to Spanish actress Hiba Abouk whom he met in 2018.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Tunisia president receives Arab interior ministers

March 01, 2023

RIYADH: Tunisian President Kais Saied on Wednesday met Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud, who is also honorary chairman of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, at Carthage Palace in Tunis.

Various other Arab interior ministers who took part in the 40th session of Arab Interior Ministers Council were also in attendance.

During the reception, Saied highlighted the important role of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers in coordinating security cooperation among Arab countries. He expressed hope that the meeting, which was held in Tunis on Wednesday, would achieve the aspirations of the leaders and peoples of Arab countries.

During his opening speech, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League, said the session is being held at a time in which the Arab region suffers from serious conflicts and civil unrest.

Aboul Gheit said that the disintegration of some Arab countries carry cross-border ramifications, including an influx of refugees, the spread of terrorist groups, drug trafficking, and criminal organizations.

The secretary-general called for an integrated security vision that considers the social conditions created by recent global developments.

Source: Arab News

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Nigeria’s new President-elect Bola Tinubu


LAGOS, Nigeria

Bola Tinubu, 70, a candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress party (APC), on Wednesday was declared the winner of Nigeria’s presidential election by Mahmood Yakubu, head of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Tinubu served two terms as governor of Nigeria’s commercial hub Lagos. He is often referred to as the "godfather" of Lagos, a state he governed between 1999 and 2007.

Prior to becoming governor, he was a senator from 1991 to 1993, before the military suspended the National Assembly and all democratic structures.

Together with other Nigerians, Tinubu formed a coalition to end the military rule that the country saw in various forms between 1985 and 1998.

He later fled the country into exile following a crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners by the military junta.

Tinubu returned in 1998 when political activities began for the return to civilian rule.


Tinubu started his elementary education in Lagos, southwestern Nigeria, and completed his secondary education at a government college, in Ibadan. He later traveled to the US for undergraduate studies, obtaining a BS in accounting from Chicago State University.

He worked in the Nigerian office of Mobil Oil before resigning to join politics.

The president-elect is married to Oluremi Tinubu, a senator. Tinubu is wealthy and owns many businesses, including a television station and a newspaper.

He will now succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, who served two terms as president. Buhari’s administration witnessed security woes, economic crunches, and corruption.

The Buhari administration continues its battle with Boko Haram terrorists, who kidnap for ransom as well as economic gain.

Buhari’s decision to replace the country's existing currency notes triggered a serious public outcry.

The incoming president is expected to address some of these challenges.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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